If you have not yet written a comprehensive estate plan, you are in good company. After all, according to a recent survey, more than half of Americans do not have even a basic will that outlines what happens to their assets after death. Still, to borrow from the old adage, there is no time like the present to plan your estate.
A key component of your estate plan, of course, is designating an executor. This individual settles your estate after your death by paying outstanding debts and dividing assets based on your instructions. While virtually anyone can serve as an executor, good ones have some common traits.
If you have a complex estate that involves real estate, investments, trusts and other in-depth matters, it may be advisable to find a financial professional to act as your executor. For a simpler estate, a friend or family member may perform the task perfectly well. Nevertheless, you likely want your executor to have some fundamental knowledge about estate administration, debts. probate and taxes.
Settling your estate may be a time-sensitive matter. It also may require the executor to have frequent communications with your estate’s attorney, your heirs and others. Put simply, you do not want to designate an executor who is prone to procrastination. By picking a diligent person, you can be certain nothing falls through the cracks.
Your family members, friends, creditors, charitable organizations and others may have some disagreements about how your executor settles your estate. To keep disagreements from turning into all-out battles, your executor should probably have some grit. That is, you want your executor to stand firm when it is necessary to protect your wishes.
While you do not want to put off writing your estate plan, you should closely scrutinize anyone you are considering naming to be your executor. Ultimately, though, if you determine in the future you have chosen the wrong person for the job, you can probably select an alternative before your death.