One of the many important decisions you need to make when making a will is choosing an executor for your estate. This is the person who will wind up your affairs. Choosing poorly may not only affect the distribution of your life savings but may also affect your family’s well-being after you are gone.
The person you choose must be trustworthy and organized. And, he or she must be ready to act immediately following your death. The duties of an executor include, but are not limited to:
- Making preliminary financial arrangements immediately following your death
- Securing your assets
- Valuing your estate
- Paying any debts and legacies and filing income tax returns to the date of death
- Distributing your estate
All of this may take time – a year or more if you have business assets, adversarial family members, a highly valuable estate or any unforeseen problems arise during the execution of the estate.
Ideally, the person you choose to be the executor of your estate should:
- Live in the same area as you. Although it’s not impossible to deal with assets and act as executor from afar, it may create an additional challenge.
- Know you fairly well because he or she will, at times, be required to answer personal questions.
- Have the time to devote to settling your estate.
- Be diplomatic in order to deal with relatives and beneficiaries objectively.
- Feel comfortable dealing with lawyers, accountants and government agencies.
With the number of tasks and requirements put on the executor of your estate, it can be tempting to want to appoint joint executors in order to spread the workload around.
Appointing joint executors means that both executors must agree on every action and must be available to sign every document. This may slow the settling of your estate because if your joint executors fail to reach an agreement on even a single item, or there’s a breakdown in communication between them, then the execution of your estate may come to a halt. Taxes won’t get paid, beneficiaries won’t be taken care of and assets won’t be distributed.
Rather than appointing executors to act jointly, appoint an alternate executor to act as back-up in case your primary executor cannot or will not act.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. It is not intended to replace actual legal advice. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.