How to Choose an Estate Executor

A Major Decision

One of the most important decisions in preparing a will is choosing an executor. The executor will be the person responsible for administering your estate and making sure your final wishes are carried out.

Executor Responsibilities

The process of choosing an executor should not be taken lightly. When you die, your executor will have many responsibilities. They will need to file the necessary court papers to start the probate process, handle details like notifying banks and government agencies of your death and file your final income tax returns. When the estate administration process concludes, your executor will be responsible for collecting your property and distributing it. Therefore the ideal candidate would be among other things honest, dependable, and organized.

While most people consider naming a family member or spouse as their executor, it may not always be the best choice. Even for smaller estates, the administration process can be long and complicated, due to numerous statutes and regulations. The paperwork involved must be filed in the correct order and by specific deadlines. It’s also important to note that the probate court must accept your choice of executor, and physical proximity may be taken into consideration. Some states require an out-of-state executor to be a family member or beneficiary, while others require the appointment of an in-state agent.

Retaining an Estate Administration Attorney

Given the many factors involved in the administration process, naming a third-party executor may be more beneficial. An attorney who specializes in estate administration can either act as an executor or be retained to provide guidance to the person you have chosen to be executor. It is generally advisable to hire an attorney for larger estates, however, smaller estates can also benefit from an administration attorney who has the experience required to address issues that may arise during the administration process, such as valuing assets and handling the necessary court filings.

For more information about estate administration see our posts “Guidelines for Estate Administration” and “New York Probate FAQ.”

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