Your affairs are in order and the time has come to finalize your will. Naming your executor—the person responsible for settling your estate—is the only task left. How do you determine the best person for the job?
While some people choose a trusted friend, most name their spouse, one of their children or another close family member to serve as executor. After all, a relative who stands to inherit has a vested interest in handling your estate. And they are likely to be familiar with your final wishes, personal property and other assets.
But there is more to the role of executor than knowing the deceased well. Settling an estate comes with many responsibilities. Without careful attention to detail, there can be lengthy delays, tax problems or even a contested will.
To help you understand the type of person who makes a good executor, we spoke with Amy Deger, Vice President, Fifth Third Estate Settlement Group. According to Deger, there are specific qualities you should look for, which we’ve outlined below.
Your executor should:
- Be in good health and younger than you. Naturally, you want someone who is more likely to be around after you’re gone. If you name your spouse and worry about his or her age or health, it’s a good idea to name a back-up executor as well.
- Live nearby. Ideally, the executor should live in the same state. Some states even require executors to be residents of the same state as the deceased. Even if your state doesn’t make this a requirement, living close by makes it much easier for the executor to manage day-to-day estate settlement details.
- Have a flexible schedule. While you don’t need to name someone without a full-time job, you should consider a person’s current responsibilities carefully. If your son’s job includes traveling internationally two weeks each month, fulfilling an executor’s duties will be a challenge for him.
- Be responsible, organized and good with meeting deadlines. Find someone who has a track record of meeting obligations with honesty and integrity.
- Be willing to consult legal and tax experts for help. Your sister, who insists on doing everything herself to save money, may not be the best choice here. Settling an estate can be a complex process and may require expert advice.
- Get along well with people. If you suspect the beneficiaries may be the squabbling type, choose someone with peacemaking abilities to make the process easier on everyone involved.
What if no one fits the bill?
If you can’t find someone who meets the above requirements for being the executor of an estate, there are other options. A common alternative is to name a neutral third-party specializing in managing executor responsibilities. This gives you an executor already experienced in trust, probate and estate management. Plus, a third party will not be emotionally attached to the outcome, which can help reduce stress and arguments among family members.
Fifth Third can assist in this role, or help you with other estate settlement questions. For more information about available services, contact a Fifth Third expert.