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Choosing the executor of your estate

When you’re getting your estate plans in order, choosing your executor is one of the most significant decisions you have to make.

Do you pick your oldest adult child? Should you put your younger brother or your favorite niece in charge? Do you want an attorney or a professional executor to handle the job? Here are some things you should consider:

The family dynamics

Family dynamics should always inform your choice when it comes to picking an executor. If you have a blended family, putting your second wife in charge of your estate could make your biological children upset (and vice-versa). If your adult children can’t get along, naming any of them executors is bound to start a family feud.

Pick someone who knows how to soothe anxious relatives and stay out of the family drama. That’s the best way to make sure that your executor doesn’t face allegations of favoritism, self-dealing or purposeful delays.

The age and health of the executor

Married couples often name each other as their executors – but it’s always wise to have at least one younger person named as the successor executor. If your spouse predeceases you or is unable to serve (either due to health reasons or grief), you want the next person ready to step in.

The relative health of your possible executors is another factor to consider. Because of the amount of work involved, you don’t want to pick someone with health struggles that might get in the way.

The willingness of the executor to serve

By no means should your decision come as a surprise to the person you’ve named as executor. Probate is not a quick process. Even an estate with minimal assets can take almost a year to settle, and the average estate takes about 16 months to close.

Talk to your potential executors and make sure that they’re willing to handle the job and all that entails, from securing your assets to filing your final tax returns and making sure that your debts are paid before the remaining estate is distributed. Not everybody wants to (or can) handle that kind of thing.

Estate planning can be a complicated process, but legal guidance can make it a lot easier.