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Choosing an Executor of your Will

Choosing the executor of your will requires careful consideration. Start the process early and take the time to really think about who you want to be responsible for managing your estate after you die. The person you select will be faced with a difficult (and thankless) job with numerous tasks and responsibilities. Family members may seem like the obvious choice for executor, but it can be difficult for a spouse or child to be effective at the job during their time of grief. They may also experience pushback or resentment from other members of the family, which could place them in an uncomfortable and stressful situation.

What does an Executor do? It’s important to understand exactly what you are asking of your executor. The position can be complicated and time-consuming, so make sure you choose someone with a strong fortitude who can deal with myriad financial and legal affairs. Some of an executor’s tasks include the following:

  • Distribute beneficiary gifts and payments.

  • ​Perform estate management duties, e.g. property transfers, title deed changes, etc.

  • Review financial assets and liabilities to pay creditors or settle debts.

  • Manage the probate process and complete court documents.

  • File final income and/or estate tax returns.

  • Defend the will if it is challenged.

Fortunately, your executor does not need to be an expert in everything. They are allowed to seek professional help as necessary in order to carry out your final instructions. If you have specific preferences for lawyers or accountants, make sure to include this information in the will.

Characteristics of a Good Executor Knowing the tasks your executor will be responsible for should make it a little easier to choose the right person. Here are some of the characteristics you should keep in mind when considering who should be your executor:

  • Sensitivity - an executor’s job begins at an emotional time. They will need to be compassionate and show sensitivity when interacting with grieving family and friends of the deceased (of course, it helps if they already know your family members). In addition, if the will goes through probate the executor may need to make contentious decisions, so choose someone who knows how to manage expectations, handle presumptions, and deal with strong personalities.

  • Honesty - the executor will be privy to all your finances, which could include monetary deals of family members or business partners, so they should be honest and trustworthy. Choose an executor who will be reserved in regards to your financial dealings.

  • Organized - there will be lots of paperwork, notifications, deadlines, and requirements. Your executor will need strong organizational skills and be able to pay attention to the smallest details in order to effectively manage the deceased’s estate and oversee probate.

  • Patience – properly executing a will can take a long time (years, in some cases). Pick someone who is patient and able to persevere through all the fine print and red tape to implement your final wishes. It’s also important that they do not try to rush the process, which could cause additional problems and delays.

After you choose who you want to be executor of your will, make sure you inform them of your decision. The person might say they do not want the responsibility, in which case you will need to find someone else. Note that even if they do accept, you should name a secondary executor in case your first choice is not able to fill the role.

Article submitted by:

Tim Dinan, Owner, Cook Family Funeral Home


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