One of the key choices you make in your estate plan is who you will designate to serve as the Executor of your estate. The Executor will be responsible for probating your will, dealing with the creditors of your estate and distributing your estate to your intended beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of your will. It can be a stressful and thankless job that can take considerable time and energy to do well. We suggest you consider three factors to help make a good choice for the person to serve as the executor of your estate.
1. Does the Person have a High Emotional IQ?
This may seem like a weird place to start, but it is an important consideration. Depending on the size and nature of your estate, the executor will be required to work with a variety of professionals, entities and individuals – lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, court personnel, government agencies, creditors, beneficiaries, etc. The person you choose needs to be self-aware and able to work well with others. It is unlikely that you will be able to choose someone who does not have to ask for any professional help to answer questions or provide guidance so the person needs to be humble enough to be willing to ask for help and accept guidance. It’s likely that the person you choose will need to be able to work with others who may be difficult to get along with, such as creditors of the estate or disgruntled or impatient beneficiaries. So the person will need to have good interpersonal skills and be patient and understanding, yet firm.
2. Does the Person have Availability to Serve?
Depending on the size and nature of the debts and assets of the estate, it could easily take 12 – 18 months to collect the assets, pay the liabilities and distribute the estate to your beneficiaries. While the executor would not likely be spending 40 hours a week for that period of time, the person you choose to serve as executor needs to have the space in their schedule to attend to the administration of your estate in a timely and responsible way. A lot of what needs to be done can be accomplished outside of normal business hours. However, there will be things that need be done that will require the flexibility to be available during normal business hours – such as an initial court appearance, meetings with legal or tax professionals, and some communication with creditors or governmental entities.
Also, while it is not imperative that the executor live in the same vicinity as you, the proximity of the executor to the county in which the will is probated is a factor to consider and will affect this issue of “availability to serve.”
3. Is the Person Conscientious?
It is not enough to be just to be smart or to be good with money. Yes, those are important considerations and qualities that are assumed, when it comes to choosing an executor. Obviously the executor will be dealing with your family and loved ones at a time when they will be in grief and transitioning to life without you. You want to choose someone who is aware of that and sympathetic to those needs. Obviously you will need to choose someone who is aware of the requirements to act – whether its to notify creditors, attend court appointments, file tax returns or whatever -but equally important is to choose someone who acts in timely, responsible way, keeping accurate and complete records while keeping all of the appropriate parties adequately informed.