Thinking about your death isn't easy. Drafting a will is another difficult task that many Americans put off. According to the AARP, 41 percent of Baby Boomers do not have a will. Only 29 percent of people under the age of 34 have a will, and it's believed that those without a will don't want to think about their death.
One of the most important aspects of planning your estate is choosing the executor. This is the person who is responsible for administering your estate through the probate process. The person does not necessarily need to be familiar with the law, but there are certain characteristics recommended by the American Bar Association.
Your choice for an executor should be:
- Financially responsible
- Able see the job through
- Someone familiar with your family or estate
- Capable of dealing with paperwork and clerical duties
- Located close to the probate court
- Able to deal with unhappy relatives who want the estate settled quicker
- Over the age of 18
- A U.S. citizen
- Someone without felony convictions
Check with your estate attorney to check any state laws that govern executors.
Paid or unpaid?
Some people pay a lawyer or financial professional to manage the estate. This puts the burden on a person or business that routinely deals with wills and probate. These people don't have a vested interest, which means they can remain neutral. For complicated or large estates, it might be best to use a paid professional.
Unpaid executors are typically friends or family members who agree to waive the executor's fee, which comes out of your estate. If your will is well executed, the duty is mostly clerical in nature. Your unpaid executor may choose to hire a financial professional or attorney to get through the process more effectively.
Some people have chosen two executors, one family member and another friend or professional. It's said that George Washington appointed seven executors for his will. If you choose to have two people oversee your will, be sure these people can work together. If you're appointing an out-of-state executor, you may want to name an individual who lives close to the probate court to handle court appearances and filings.
When naming executors, name a secondary executor, in case the first choice is unavailable. Otherwise, the court will name a replacement executor.
You should also discuss the appointment with the person you select. Make sure he or she agrees to take on the position. There may be complications with the appointment of which you are unaware. The job of an executor is not easy. You want someone who will commit to seeing things through. It can typically take two or more years to settle a probate case.
Don't wait, tomorrow is not promised
An estate planning attorney can help you in planning a legacy for your descendants. You can discuss your concerns and considerations with one of our attorneys to make the process easier for your executor and heirs. With our experience in estate planning, we create a will that honors your wishes.