Qualities You Want In Your Executor
An Executor’s Qualities Matter so Choose Wisely
Whether you’re just now writing your will or you’re revamping your estate plan, you’ll need to choose someone to be an executor. Better—once you choose, consider naming an alternate executor in case the first one can’t fulfill the job.
If you’re thinking about a family member for your executor, this is common. But make sure you know they have the qualities to handle the job. It is indeed a job and you want them to be up to the task.
Consider this scenario: you select your adult daughter as your executor and have the conversation. She agrees to take care of everything for you. Following the funeral, everything is all over, but your daughter is so sad she drags her feet and stalls the probate process. The beneficiaries are waiting on what you promised, but they must wait until your daughter does multiple tasks, like paying off creditors. Outstanding debts are not being paid or a tax return needs to be filed. Money, property, and other assets are still in your name months after you’ve passed away because she is not completing the job. But without action from your daughter, your estate plan is not being taken care of.
Scenarios like this can happen especially if a family member is overwhelmed with grief or simply not organized. Let a qualified estate planning attorney, like Jim Nici of Naples, Florida, help you choose.
Responsibilities Of Your Personal Representative
Once a will is probated, your executor, also know as personal representative, becomes your voice when dealing with your affairs. Being an executor is a big responsibility. Who you choose will oversee the wind-down of your finances. They will file your final tax return, pay final bills, and distribute your assets. They also have to help your loved ones understand what is happening with your estate.
Understanding what’s involved is the first step to figuring out who you should choose. Most people just assume a family member can be the executor, but be realistic—can your spouse or adult child handle the job? Many can, but consider the responsibilities they will be taking on and their ability to complete the job at hand. Also do they have the personal qualities discussed below.
Trustworthy and Financially Responsible
Because your executor will be handling your finances and other personal affairs, whomever you choose should be someone you can trust implicitly. Also they should be financially responsible meaning they pay bills on time, fulfill financial commitments, and are careful with financial obligations. Sometimes this is a spouse, but sometimes, it isn’t. If you’re unsure about a family member, choosing an attorney, accountant, or other objective party may be a better option.
Your executor will be doing an inventory on your assets, finding and paying bills, settling any debts, closing out accounts (such as a credit card), and distributing assets to beneficiaries once the estate is finally settled. In addition, the executor will be opening and managing a bank account for your estate, as well as working with your estate attorney. They may work with an accountant on your final tax return.
Financial responsibility is vital. Choosing someone who is not under any financial stress of their own, or irresponsible with their own money, or tempted to abuse their position as executor for their own personal gain is important. This will ensure that your estate’s finances are handled properly.
An executor will be going through everything of yours to settle your estate, including opening your mail, reviewing files, and delving into your personal affairs. So it’s important that the person has the emotional stability to do the job. The scenario described earlier can be avoided if you choose someone who can take care of things without becoming encumbered by grief after a loss, as may be the case with a spouse or possibly an adult child.
It’s a virtue for an executor, since the job generally takes between six and twelve months, depending upon the circumstances. Finishing probate is rarely done early. Your executor should be aware that things will take this amount of time and be able to wait for things to be completed.
Strong-Minded But Compassionate
An executor will need to be strong enough to defend your estate in court against false creditors, invalid claims, or any other challenges. On the flip side, they must also be able to handle any family conflicts compassionately, fairly, and diplomatically in an emotionally challenging situation.
Need Help Choosing An Executor?
It’s one of the most important decisions you can make for your estate plan. We can help you choose the right person for your executor.
For more questions about executors, probates, and other estate planning issues, contact Naples Estate Planning Attorney Jim Nici at (239) 449-6150 today. Let us use our experience and expertise to help you make the best decisions to secure your assets.