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How to choose an executor for your estate

If you are putting together your will, particularly if it's the first time, understanding everything you need to cover can be a challenge. One of the first steps, though, is to pick your executor. This decision is important because the executor of your estate is the person you are trusting to take care of all of your final debts and the disposition of your assets. That makes the position one of trust, and it also complicates the choice, because the people you are most likely to trust the most are also likely to be beneficiaries, which could potentially put them in the position of having a conflict of interest.

Why you need an executor

First and foremost, it is important to understand why the state requires an executor for your will. The process of paying your estate's debts and disposing of property needs a responsible party to function properly, one who can:

  • Oversee the payment of your final debts
  • Protect the assets of the estate during probate
  • Represent the estate in claims against others that may or may not be outstanding
  • Distribute property to beneficiaries

When you are thinking about an executor, the first thing to keep in mind is the need for the first three items, because those are the areas where your executor will have the most autonomous work to do. Your choice needs to be someone qualified to handle all of those tasks.

Choosing a neutral executor

One way to avoid possible conflicts that might stem from having a beneficiary as executor is to name a professional, such as an attorney or a bank. That allows you to rest assured that no matter what happens between your heirs, the person in charge of following through with the provisions of your will can remain neutral and outside of any potential conflicts. This can make it easier to defend your wil l under some circumstances, and it also prevents any bad feelings from forming because of differences in access to the estate during probate.

Another good way to avoid conflict is to name someone you trust, someone whose judgment is sound and whose experience covers the appropriate skill set, but who will not be a major beneficiary of your estate. This can save money and produces the same result as a professional neutral party, but it is not always possible.

Regardless of whether you choose to name an outside professional or a close friend, though, it is easier to be sure that your will is followed according to your intentions when you have the right executor. For assistance preparing a legally sound will, you can consult with an experienced attorney.

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