In a previous post, you learned about the key players in the process of executing wills and estate planning, which, if you haven’t yet, can be read here. I did mention in the same blog post that there are more to the nine figures listed, but we are not going to tackle these other characters for now—not yet, at least!
As you may have already guessed from the title, we are going to zero in on just one key player for today: the executor, or particularly, the IDEAL executor.
What makes an ideal executor? If you were to draft a will and assign an executor, what criteria should you consider in choosing your executor?
To answer these very important questions, I will give you a few helpful criteria for choosing an executor, so you get to designate one that will get the job done and get it done well!
Who is an executor?
Just to quickly recap, an executor is the person named in the will that is tasked to administer the estate of the deceased.
Basically, the executor represents the deceased in the management and distribution of the properties among the heirs and beneficiaries, as well as settle existing debts and unpaid taxes.
Of course, these are just some of the tasks an executor is expected to do. Other responsibilities may include getting in touch and coordinating with both creditors and beneficiaries, filing for the probate of the will (and, accordingly, attending court proceedings), among others.
Truly, being an executor is one tough job! And this, precisely, is why choosing an executor is no simple business. If you want your estate to be handled well for the benefit of your children and loved ones (but then again—who doesn’t?), you definitely have to carefully decide on an executor according to a sound set of criteria. There is no place for second-guessing when it comes to matters such as this!
What are the criteria for choosing an ideal executor?
To help you select an adequate executor for your estate, or, at the least, help you narrow down your initial options, I have come up with a checklist of qualities to consider and be mindful of.
Let’s go over them one by one!
Without question, this tops the list of qualities to look out for when choosing an executor.
As the settlement of your estate will involve funds and properties you have worked so hard for, you would not want them to fall into the wrong hands. Rather, you need someone who is trustworthy and will go through the entire process, from the valuation of your estate (that is, determining how much your estate is worth) up to the time of distribution—and to do it all—with fairness and integrity. Basically, an ideal executor is one who has no intention to personally enrich himself/herself, save, of course, the executor compensation as payment for the work (yes, your executor can be paid for the work they do!).
This quality is an advantage especially during distribution, when beneficiaries would become aggressive about getting their share—a usual scenario even in seemingly peaceful families! When these potential disputes arise, you need someone who will remain diplomatic and will not be easily swayed. You need someone who knows your preferences and will stick to them. Objectivity, surely, contributes to a fair and trouble-free estate settlement!
As I have mentioned earlier, some of the tasks of an executor include making a valuation of the estate and an inventory of assets, sorting out finances and dues, settling income and estate taxes, among others. These will definitely be a breeze for a financially literate executor!
Of course, this is not to say that you need a master accountant to get the job done. Really, all you need is someone who, at least, is familiar with the basic terms, concepts, and procedure, with or without a professional license. When needed, executors often work closely with professional advisors, such as CPAs, attorneys, and financial advisors. But having someone who can “speak the language” is certainly helpful.
I may already sound repetitive at this point, but it just must be said again: An estate executor will be juggling A LOT of tasks. He or she will be communicating with a lot of people, transacting with a lot of agencies, doing a lot of paperwork… and a whole lot more. Definitely, it will work for your benefit and for the benefit of your family if you get someone who is organized and detail-oriented to minimize conflicts and slip-ups.
Last on my list is the prospective executor’s commitment to, well, being your executor.
Because even if your chosen executor possesses all of the four qualities above but is not up for the task, then you cannot expect the settlement proceedings to go well—or at all. You need to designate someone who is available and willing to give his or her time and energy, especially since estate settlement can take as long as two years. You need someone who will not be limited by his work commitments and schedule, and who is willing to be at different places, too, if residing far from your home and other assets.
I hope to have helped you come up with good choices for an estate executor! Of course, as an estate planning lawyer, it is my job to guide you in matters such as choosing a trustworthy executor, apart from helping clients through the entire estate settlement process.
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Until the next post!