How to Choose an Executor

An executor is the person who oversees the settling of your estate, pays any debts or taxes on behalf of your estate, and ensures that the people named in the will as inheritors receive their inheritances. It's a very important role, so spend some time thinking about who in your life might be best suited for it.

Qualities of an executor

An ideal executor is someone who has:

  • Attention to detail 
  • An understanding of his or her duties, and a commitment to taking those duties seriously 
  • An understanding of finances and perhaps business 
  • Patience, as the process may take a long time

Often, the person with all of these qualities may not be your closest friend or family member, but instead may be a friend or close colleague who you believe to be competent, honest, and intelligent.

To learn about the duties of an executor, see our article Duties of an Executor.

Appointing a professional as executor

If you don’t feel like you have anyone in your life who you would like to entrust with the role of executor, you may appoint a professional that you have a relationship with, such as a trust and estate attorney or an accountant. These people will usually require a fee for their services as an executor, often a portion of the estate.

You may also appoint someone close to you to act as the executor and specify to that person that you would like him or her to hire professionals to help with certain aspects of the process.

Who can't be named as an executor?

The only people who can't serve as the executor of your estate are minors (people under 18 years old). In some states, any person who is a convicted felon can't be an executor. And in other states, the law says that the person you name as your executor must live in your state. If you're not sure what the laws are in your state, it's a good idea to consult with a local trust and estate attorney.

To learn about the probate process, see our article Understanding Probate.

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