Choosing an effective executor remains crucial in estate planning

When making an estate plan, you want to avoid mistakes. And one of those mistakes could be choosing an executor who just is not the right fit or is just plain incompetent. The responsibilities of the executor run the gamut and remain vital in helping you pass along your assets to beneficiaries.

Those duties include managing the estate in the probate process; communicating with heirs, beneficiaries, accountants and appraisers; identifying and securing all assets; notifying the proper agencies that the person has died; paying outstanding debts; dealing with tax matters; distributing assets among beneficiaries; and closing the estate.

Organized, trustworthy, savvy, calm

With so many responsibilities, an executor must be organized, trustworthy, have some financial savvy and can remain calm under pressure. The executor deals with a mountain of financial matters and must have strong interpersonal communication skills, especially when having to serve as a referee in dealing with beneficiary disputes or confronting conflicts of interest.

Many people automatically select an adult child to be the executor of their estate. In many cases, that can be ideal. But, in other situations, it may not work out so well. Here are some things to pursue during your executor-search process:

  • Approach the people who would make strong candidates as an executor. Discuss the responsibilities of this time-consuming and complicated role. Make sure they understand those responsibilities and are comfortable fulfilling them.
  • Selecting co-executors is a solid choice. Different people have different strengths and could team to make for a smooth probate process. Make sure to name a back-up executor, too. A representative or attorney from a trust company also could fulfill this role.
  • There may be a time when you consider replacing your originally named executor. Perhaps you have had a falling out with this person, your relationship has changed, or this person may no longer be able to perform the executor role.

Each aspect of an estate plan is important. The executor role is among them. Take care in choosing the right one, because it just may make the difference between a smooth probate process and one filled with drama.

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