Choosing an executor (also known as a “Personal Representative” in Missouri) for your estate is a decision that has profound impact on your chosen beneficiaries. Choose well, and your final wishes will be carried out smoothly and responsibly. Choose poorly, and your estate could be tied up in probate court for years and your legacy’s value severely diminished.
An executor shoulders the responsibility of opening probate, managing your final affairs, paying your debts and distributing your remaining assets to your heirs. With that in mind, you want to choose someone with the following qualities:
Trustworthiness and integrity
An executor must be someone you trust implicitly. Not only are you going to entrust your executor with information about the location of your will, financial holdings and access to passwords, but you also must trust them to act with integrity after you’re gone.
There are a lot of small tasks, paperwork and deadlines involved in handling an estate, so good organization skills are important for an executor.
Taxes, final debts and asset management may all be part of the executor’s job, so they either need to be fairly literate in these matters, or conscious of the fact that they’ll need help (and are willing to seek it) and can monitor activities of experts. A well written estate plan document will allow for the retention of experts to assist your executor.
A good executor can explain complex matters in a way that beneficiaries can understand, which can manage their expectations, reduce confusion and avoid potential conflicts. Choose someone who can handle themselves well, even when they’re locked in emotionally-charged situations. Ideally, the executor already has a good rapport with your beneficiaries which can help better communications.
Time and ability
Settling an estate can be time-consuming, involving tasks that span several months, perhaps even years in the event that your executor is also going to serve as a Trustee in your estate plan. A good executor should have the availability and willingness to dedicate the necessary time to fulfilling their duties – so pick someone who is not already overwhelmed with their daily obligations.