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How to choose an executor for your estate

Unless you want a stranger determining how your assets are allocated after your passing, it is wise to create a will that dictates your wishes when you are unable to do so. An important consideration after creating the will involves who to name as executor, or the person in charge of seeing that your affairs are in order and your assets are appropriately allocated in your absence.

While the exact duties of the executor tend to vary, typically, this is the person tasked with paying bills and taxes on your estate, seeing that your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes and keeping up your property or properties until matters are legally settled. Opinions differ broadly in terms of whether it is better to appoint a professional or a close family member to take on the job, and the best decision for you ultimately depends on the details of your situation. Recognizing the pros and cons of both options may help you decide which route is best for you.

Deciding between a professional or a family member

Because of the personal nature and level of trust involved in creating wills and determining who is to receive what, many people choose to appoint a spouse, adult child or another close family member as executor. If you take this path, be sure to consider the degree of organization and the amount of time it will take to see that your estate is handled properly. You may also want to give the job to someone with strong communication skills and a certain degree of tact because the wishes expressed in wills can sometimes surprise or potentially offend the friends and family members of the author. Finally, the executor role may require that someone be present, in person, at specific times, so it is wise to give the title to someone who lives in the same general geographical area.

Hiring a professional may be a good move for those who do not have close family members who meet the aforementioned criteria. It may also prove helpful in situations where family strife exists by keeping the situation professional and minimizing acrimoniousness among siblings or other family members to the fullest extent possible. It might also prove wise to hire a professional if your estate is especially complex, or if complicated tax situations or disputes over property might arise.

If you have additional questions about how to choose an executor for your estate, you may consider speaking with an attorney.