When we die, somebody will need to handle our estates. That means gathering and protecting our assets, dealing with our creditors and making sure our assets are distributed as specified in our Wills. That person (or persons) is called the Executor of the estate. We can specify the Executor in our Will. We can name more than one person to act as Executor. We can name alternate Executor(s) in case the first person is unable or unwilling to serve as Executor.
As you might imagine, serving as Executor can be a big responsibility and not everybody is up to the challenge. So how do you choose an Executor? Some people say it doesn’t’ matter because they won’t be here anyway so they don’t care how their estate is handled. Easy enough for them. For everybody else, here are some factors to consider in choosing an Executor.
Age – Executors must be at least 18 years old. Although that’s the minimum legal age, most 18 year olds are not up to the challenge of serving as Executor of an estate. At the other end of the spectrum, it probably does not make sense to name an Executor who is considerably older than you and may not be alive upon your death.
Relationship to you – Is this person likely to be a part of your life when you die? There are no guarantees, but a relative or a long-term friend is probably more likely to be involved in your life than a relatively new friend or acquaintance. And the stronger the relationship, the more likely that this person would agree to serve as Executor when the time comes.
Responsibility – Is this person responsible enough to serve as Executor? Will they take the job seriously and work diligently with the attorney to handle the estate? Does this person handle his or her life responsibilities well? That is probably a good indication of how they would handle your estate.
Trustworthiness – Would you trust this person with all of your assets? If not, keep looking. That’s exactly what you’re giving to your Executor – authority to handle all of your assets and liabilities. If you wouldn’t trust this person during your lifetime, why would you trust them upon your death?
When you’ve chosen an Executor, you should get that person’s permission to name him or her in your Will. Make sure she or he is OK with the idea of taking on that responsibility. You should also make sure your Executor knows where and how to find your original Will. You may also want to give them a copy of your Will.
If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Hershey, Harrisburg, Carlisle, Mechanicsburg and surrounding communities and would like to discuss choosing an Executor or any other family law or estate planning or administration issue, please contact me.