How to Choose an Executor for Your Estate

Nearly as important as the decision to make a will is choosing an executor to administer your estate. Your executor is the person charged with carrying out your last wishes, settling your debts, and distributing your remaining property to the people you want to receive it. It’s not simply an honorary position, so you need to put some thought into who will serve in that role. If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I choose an executor for my will?” here is some guidance for you.

How Do You Choose an Executor?

Serving as executor or personal representative of an estate is a job, so you might want to approach choosing an executor as if it were a position for which you were hiring. What are the requirements for this position?

Trustworthiness

First and foremost, you want someone you can trust. Your executor should be someone who is trustworthy in general, and also someone you can count on to carry out your specific wishes and administer your estate with integrity. A personal representative of an estate can be removed for misconduct, but it’s best to avoid the need by making a wise choice.

Willingness to Serve

In most situations, you know that someone is willing to do a job because they apply for it. But an executor is named in a will and may feel obligated to serve in that role whether or not they feel ready for it or have the time to do a good job.

When choosing an executor, make sure the person you have in mind is willing and able to take on the responsibility. If you are not sure what that will involve, your probate and estate planning attorney can help you understand what is likely to be involved.

Financial Ability and Stability

Your executor doesn’t have to be a financial genius to manage your estate. If there are complexities, they will be able to hire a financial professional for help. But your executor will need to manage estate finances, pay legitimate estate debts and collect any debts that are due to the estate. In other words, they will need some basic financial literacy.

A person who has shown themselves able to responsibly manage their own finances can probably capably manage your estate’s.

Organization

Serving as executor of an estate involves a fair bit of paperwork—court forms and correspondence—and there are many deadlines to keep track of. Choosing an executor with strong organizational skills improves the likelihood that your estate will be administered efficiently and correctly.

Understanding of Family Dynamics

Settling an estate isn’t just a financial matter; it’s a deeply personal one. When you are choosing an executor for your estate, think about whether that person understands the dynamics of your family and how to deftly navigate those dynamics when your loved ones are grieving and more stressed than they ordinarily might be. This is especially true if your executor is a family member him- or herself.

Age

It shouldn’t be surprising that age is also a consideration when choosing an executor for your estate. Assuming that you have a normal life expectancy, choosing someone who is much older than you could mean that you will outlive your chosen executor. At the same time, choosing someone who is much younger, like a grandchild, might mean that they lack the maturity and responsibility to manage the estate when the time comes.

Of course, choosing someone younger than you (but not too much younger) doesn’t guarantee that they will be available to act as executor when the time comes. That’s why you should also choose an alternate executor who meets all the criteria above in case your named executor cannot serve when needed.

Other Considerations When Choosing an Executor

It’s often helpful to choose an executor who lives near you so that they will have ready access to the probate court in your county after your death. But this doesn’t always work out. You may move, or your chosen executor might. Or it’s possible that the people you would trust most to manage your estate live out of state and are unlikely to move back.

Fortunately, Michigan, unlike some states, doesn’t require the executor of an estate within its borders to be a resident of the state. That means that if you have a family member or friend outside of Michigan whom you want to serve as your executor, they can do so easily with the help of an experienced Michigan probate attorney. In fact, even if your executor lives in Michigan, it is wise for them to have a probate attorney’s guidance. The services of a probate lawyer are considered a benefit to the estate, so their fees are usually paid out of estate funds.

Another consideration for many people is avoiding hurt feelings among family members when choosing an executor. You may consider the idea of making family members co-executors to avoid having to choose between them, but this is a risky idea unless you are certain they can work well and efficiently together. It’s usually wiser to choose one person as your executor, and the other as an alternate if the first is unable to serve.

If you have questions about how to choose an executor for your will, or other questions about estate planning or administration, contact Suzanne R. Fanning PLLC to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Estate planning