One of the more significant decisions you make when it comes to financial and estate planning is who you select to serve as the executor of your last will and testament. The executor is the individual you name in your will and designate to direct the affairs of your estate after you die. Technically, when you name an executor in your will you are nominating that individual to serve in that position. Ultimately, upon your death, the local probate court needs to approve the person your designate in this manner. When it comes to selecting an executor for your will and estate, there are a number of key considerations that you need to keep in mind.
Select a Trustworthy, Capable, Responsible Party
The person you select to serve as your estate executor needs to be trustworthy, capable, and responsible. Yes, these seem like obvious factors. The reality is that oftentimes when a person selects an executor the determination is done with little thought. A person may select a person they “really like” to be an executor without really thinking about that individual’s attributes.
The bottom line is that an estate executor has what is known as a fiduciary duty. This is the highest legal standard of care that exists in the United States. An executor must serve the estate with all due care and diligence and without any self-dealing whatsoever.
Select a Person in Good Financial Standing
When selecting an executor for your estate, pick a person that has solid financial standing. For example, an executor will be called upon to open a bank account for the estate. As a consequence, that individual’s history with operating bank accounts may become an issue. If an individual selected to be an executor has had issues with a checking account in the past five year, he or she may be unable to open a bank account.
If a person has financial issues, concerns may arise among the heirs that the individual should not be serving in the capacity of the executor of an estate. Heirs have the ability to come into the probate court and object to the appointment of a particular person to serve as executor of an estate. Concerns about financial abilities and related issues are common reasons why heirs object to the appointment of a particular person to serve as an executor, even when that is the individual designated in a last will and testament.
Don’t Pick a Person the Probate Court Might Disqualify
On a related note, when considering a person to serve as the executor of your estate, make certain you don’t select a person that the probate court might refuse to appoint. There are some issues that may cause a probate court to disqualify a person to serve as the executor of your estate. These include a prior criminal conviction for a crime of dishonesty or even a fairly recent bankruptcy.
Keep in mind that a probate court might require an executor to obtain a bond. A person with a prior conviction for a crime of dishonesty or a fairly recent bankruptcy might not be able to get bonded. You do have the ability to note in your last will and testament that you want your executor to serve without a bond. However, it is possible that a probate court will override that recommendation in your will because a judge deems a bond is in the best interests of the estate.
Location of an Executor Isn’t a Primary Factor
Whilst it can be easier to have an executor in the same community as the deceased individual and the probate court, location is not a primary factor. Thanks to today’s technology, it is acceptable to have an executor located away from the city where the deceased person died and the probate court is located.
Select at Least One Successor Executor Who is Younger
Not only do you need to nominate an executor for your estate in your will you also need to select a successor or backup executor. This is an individual designated to serve as your executor if the primary nominee is unable to serve in that position. When it comes to a successor executor, you may want to give serious consideration to picking a person who is younger. Of course, the person needs to be otherwise qualified. However, having a younger successor executor nominee heightens the odds that a backup executor will be alive and in good health at the time of your own demise.
Make Sure the Person You Desire Is Willing to Serve
Finally, when you select an executor you need to make sure you pick a person that is willing to serve. Talk candidly with a person you would like to serve as your executor and obtain a commitment from them to do the job. As an aside, you need to make certain that the person you nominate to be your executor knows how to access the original copy of your will at the time of your death.