We already covered the two main components of your Will, which include allocating your assets and naming a guardian. The final big decision is naming an executor, which is the person tasked with making the decisions in your Will a reality. An ideal executor is someone with the following skills:
- Attention to detail. If an executor screws up, they can be held legally responsible for any real or perceived malfeasance. You want them to be thorough not only for your family’s sake, but for their own as well.
- An understanding of finances and perhaps business. Being an executor isn’t easy, and if they’re not fully up to the task then they need to be willing to follow through on the next bullet point or else they may have a nervous breakdown.
- Willingness to enlist professional assistance, like an estate attorney, if they’re in over their head. Even some of the smartest and most fiscally responsible people we’ve known have hired an attorney to carry the load. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness or failure. Usually, it’s because the person didn’t have enough time and realized the cost of an attorney was worth it. Speaking of time...
- Patience. The process may take a long time, we’re talking months or even years if complications arise.
The person with all of these magical qualities may not be a family member, but rather a competent, honest, and intelligent friend or close colleague. Some states have laws regarding who you can name as an executor, which makes it a good idea to consult an estate attorney when making your final decision if you don’t have a clear-cut choice. It’s also smart (and might be necessary) to name an alternate executor in case the primary isn’t available.
Pick an executor and an alternate executor. If you already know who these people are, like a responsible adult child or reliable sibling, then this can be easy. You should also call or text this person to let them know they’ve been chosen so it doesn’t come as a surprise.
If you don’t feel like you have anyone in your life to entrust with this role, you may appoint a professional, such as an estate attorney. The typical fee when naming a pro is often a portion of the estate. Sometimes attorneys even offer affordable estate planning packages in the hope they’ll be hired to eventually settle the estate. Even if you name someone you know is completely capable of the task, they may still want to hire an attorney since the process can be time consuming and complicated.