When outlining your estate, one of the most important decisions you will make is picking your executor. The executor of a Will is the individual who will oversee caring out your wishes expressed in your Will, disbursing property, and settling final affairs. Deciding who will take on this role is challenging for many people, and with good reason. It’s a tremendous responsibility, even for small estates, and selecting that individual should be done with care.
Your executor ideally should be someone in, or very close to, your immediate family. They should be of the age a majority and (ideally) live close enough that they can quickly appear before and correspond with local probate courts. Typically, courts do prefer that the individual be legally related and reside in the same state as the decedent (though these are not hard and fast requirements). The selected individual should be of sound mind, ready to perform a difficult task at a difficult time. Settling affairs can be difficult as it requires compiling lists of all outstanding assets and debts, including bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and family information.
Whoever you select, they must know of their responsibility before it comes into play. The executor could become personally liable for failing to follow the directions of the Will or the Court. They will need to know where and how to act quickly. This involves obtaining a copy of the Will and reaching out to the legal professional that drew up the estate plan. The Will should be stored in an accessible place within the home for the executor.
Most Wills, when drawn up, have two executors listed. The second executor is the Successor. They will only come into play should the first be unable to act, be it by illness or choice. This second individual should be made aware of their responsibility as well, though it is unlikely that it would come into play. Should both individuals be unable to perform their duties, their responsibilities will be passed to a court-appointed administrator who will take on the duties of the executor.
Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney