Tips for choosing your executor

Naming your executor is one of the most important decisions you make when you draw up your will or establish a trust. You want someone with good business sense as well as good old-fashioned common sense. Some estate matters can be very complicated, and your executor must be able to work through them, exercise good judgement and seek help from experts when necessary.

Choose someone who will be around

Your first thought may be to name a sibling or trusted relative as your executor, but keep in mind that if these people are about the same age you are or even older, they may not outlive you. Even so, the person you do choose may face disability or die unexpectedly. Therefore, you need to appoint a successor who can take on the responsibility of administering your estate if choice number one is unable to serve.

Documents should be easy to locate

Your executor will be grateful for any help regarding the whereabouts of your important documents. Let the executor know where to find copies of your will or trust, a listing of your assets, including bank accounts and investments, business interests, insurance documents, any funeral and burial arrangements you have made and information about such items as real property and collectibles. The attorney who has prepared your estate documents should also have your asset listing, so make sure your executor knows how to reach the legal firm.

Making payments and distributions

Your executor will be responsible for paying your debts. You can help by keeping an accounting of your monthly bills and income. Your check book will be a starting point for the individual you have selected to manage your affairs. However, the more organized your documentation, the less time your executor will have to spend sifting through your papers to find all the debts or determine the sources of monthly, quarterly or annual income.

Turning to experts

No matter how simple or complex your affairs, you will want an executor who can handle any issue that may arise as your estate is being settled. Trust assets can be disbursed almost immediately, but if you only leave a will, it will need to be filed with the probate court. In any event, there will be actions for the executor to take. A tax professional can help with the final tax return, for example, and an appraiser can place fair market value on your antiques and paintings. The expert who may be of greatest assistance to your executor is the attorney who helped prepare your will or trust and who will be called upon to notify your creditors and others of your demise. You can help your executor by working with an attorney experienced in these matters.