When you are planning your estate, you need to have a clear picture of how you want your legacy to continue. In addition to deciding who will receive the house and family heirlooms, you have another important decision to make: Who do you want to administer your estate? The executor of your estate will implement your action plan and act as the voice of your estate.
But how do you choose an executor? This person will be helping your loved ones through a difficult time, overseeing your finances, paying your final bills and distributing your property. Because it is a great responsibility, you’ll want to choose the right person for the job. These seven characteristics will help you identify what is important when selecting an executor.
7 Qualities of a Good Executor
1. Ethical and Dependable
Who is a good person to be an executor? Someone you can count on. That’s because the executor of your estate will have an inside look at your finances. As part of a long list of responsibilities, they will be charged with reviewing your assets, determining your liability, paying creditors and settling outstanding debts. You are entrusting the executor of your estate to settle your finances while maintaining a level of confidentiality. Choose someone you trust with your financial secrets.
Many people choose a close family member or family friend, but your executor can be anyone you trust. A few options to consider include an attorney, accountant, banker or living trust as executor. Many of these people will charge a fee to the estate to settle your affairs.
Settling an estate requires attention to detail. From listing assets to meeting court deadlines, keeping track of the details is a must. A missed deadline may draw out an already lengthy process, so you will want to choose someone who is task-oriented and can stay on schedule.
You can help the executor of your estate stay on top of the details of your estate by organizing your accounts in one central location. But nothing will replace a will or written estate plan. Your Farm Bureau agent can help you plan your estate and create a printed copy of your Journal of Wishes and Records.
3. Financially Savvy
You have spent your life building and protecting your financial assets. Ensure your executor will exercise as much caution with your assets as you did while you were building them. A business-savvy executor will exercise timing and restraint to ensure that assets won’t lose their value before they are distributed to heirs of the estate.
Another way to ensure your heirs receive the full benefits of your estate is to take steps to minimize the impact of taxes on your estate.
4. Fair and Impartial
Part of an executor’s job is to balance your wishes with the best interests of the beneficiaries. The executor will be called on to make practical decisions regarding your estate. Choose someone who can balance both considerations. Often, executors are not beneficiaries of the estate, freeing them up to act in the best interest of the estate without bias.
Unfortunately, false claims are often made against an estate in probate. Your executor should be prepared to defend your estate plan from false creditors and invalid claims. Additionally, your executor may need to handle conflicts among family members or anyone who may challenge your will. It’s best to choose someone who can be diplomatic but firm in difficult situations.
Probating, or settling an estate, can take between nine and 12 months to complete. Duties range from taking inventory of the estate, contacting creditors, communicating your final wishes to beneficiaries, filing taxes for the estate and, if necessary, defending the will in court.
Though the executor is typically compensated for the time they spend executing your final wishes, it is wise to choose someone who has the time to spend on your estate. Have a discussion with the person you wish to execute your will and ensure they are willing to spend the time it takes to carry out your final wishes.
In addition to all of these qualities, remember to choose someone who is compassionate. Your executor will help your loved ones through a very stressful and difficult time while guarding and protecting your wishes.
We’re Here for You
From life insurance to estate planning, your Farm Bureau agent can connect you with resources that will help you plan and execute your estate plan.