When you’re crafting your estate plans, you have a lot of decisions that have to be made – not the least of which is who to choose as your executor.
Your executor is the person who will ultimately manage your estate, so that includes locating and securing your assets, paying your final bills, filing your final taxes, inventorying and obtaining appraisals for your valuables, resolving any disputes and – ultimately – distributing what remains to your beneficiaries.
1. Choose someone you trust
One of the most critical aspects of selecting an executor is trust. You need to choose an individual who is not only personally trustworthy but someone you also trust to be capable of handling the financial and administrative aspects of the job. This person should be organized, detail-oriented and willing to commit.
2. Consider their legal and financial acumen
Estate administration can be complex. While it’s not a requirement for your executor to have a legal or financial background, you do need someone who can make solid decisions. You also need someone who has the good judgment to know when they need experienced assistance and when to defer to the wisdom of others.
3. Evaluate their level of availability
Being an executor is a significant responsibility that can take several months – or even years – to complete, depending on the complexity of your estate. The person you choose needs to be readily able to devote the necessary time and effort to these responsibilities. You don’t want to pick someone whose life is unstable or already overwhelming.
4. Pick someone with strong communication skills
Nothing can lead to an estate dispute faster than an anxious or disgruntled beneficiary or heir, and nothing ramps up the stress of a situation like poor communication. Your executor is the person who has to convey any important information about the estate to your beneficiaries and heirs and manage their expectations, so make sure they’re the sort of person to be both responsive to questions and clear.
5. Think about the family dynamics involved
Family dynamics can be complicated, especially if there are second (or third) marriages involved or step-children in the picture. You want to make sure that the person you name as your executor is someone that everybody trusts and respects. This isn’t the time to try to force people who don’t get along (like two siblings who are usually at odds) to work together.
6. Make sure they meet all the legal requirements
In New York, there are specific legal requirements for who can serve as an executor. The person you select must be at least 18 years old, of sound mind, have no substance abuse and generally be of good character. The court can also declare an executor ineligible if they are unable to speak and read English fluently or have certain felony convictions. Keep these requirements in mind when making your decision.
When you want to make sure that your final wishes are carried out accurately and efficiently, legal guidance can help you make informed decisions that will safeguard the best interests of your estate and your beneficiaries.