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How to Choose the Right Executor for a Will

Part of setting up a will — which is something most adults should do — requires choosing an executor.

“Executor” is a fancy name for a person who will be in charge of your estate after you die. They’ll probably work with an attorney, but the executor will be the main person dealing with your assets. This includes dealing with your assets until they’re distributed, paying the estate’s bills and debts, and giving the right assets and money to the right people at the right time. They may also have to sell your property, review medical records and bring lawsuits.

The easiest way to choose an executor is to name a lawyer, accountant, financial planner, bank or trust company. The problem is that this costs money. Fees range from 1% to 5% of your assets. Unless your estate is large or complicated, it’s easier to choose a relative or friend.

Choosing a younger executor is important because you want someone who will likely outlive you. You’ll also need to pick a backup in case your first choice dies before you do. Your children can be named as executors and others can be listed as co-executors.

Pick someone who is responsible and who realizes when they need to hire people to help them. They should be able to make hard decisions when required, such as dealing with beneficiaries. A good executor has their personal finances in good order and doesn’t have credit problems.

Whoever you choose must give you their permission. Ask them first and make sure you tell them where your assets and important papers are. Some states require executors to be bonded so that the estate is insured if they run off with the money.

You can also seek professional help in finding an executor. The National Association of Estate Planners and Councils can help, as can the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

An executor doesn’t have to live close to you. They may want to make an in-person visit to your house to ensure your personal property is distributed and to meet with your estate’s attorney, but many of their tasks can be handled without going to your town.

The simpler your estate, the less work the executor will have to do, and it’s less likely you’ll need to hire a professional to do it.