Talking about an executor—the person who carries out a dead person’s wishes— is kinda . . . well, morbid.
But hey—when it’s time to pick an executor for your own will, and trust us, it’s going to happen—it’s super important to know what executors do and how to pick one.
Don’t worry about how to find out though. We’ll walk you through it.
What Is an Executor?
Put simply, an executor manages the last will and testament of someone who dies. They’re the person who’s either named in the will by the person who wrote the will or by a court of law.
The truth is that an executor’s job doesn’t come without challenges—it can be both an honor and a huge responsibility. As the personal representative of the deceased, executors are officially responsible for making sure the deceased’s assets are distributed according to the will. Sometimes that includes the unpopular role of being the family peacekeeper.
On the other hand, being an executor can be an enormously rewarding experience. Don’t forget—people usually choose a person to be their executor because they consider them to be responsible, honest, diligent and impartial. Those are some pretty noble qualities!
What Does an Executor Do?
Like we mentioned, an executor’s main job is to carry out the instructions of the deceased’s will. Executors deal with probate court, tell everyone who needs to know about the death, pay outstanding debt, distribute assets, and generally represent the deceased person whenever needed.
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But there’s a happy task too. One of the executor’s jobs is to make sure all assets listed in the will are transferred to the right party or parties. If the deceased was a smart investor , built wealth, and wanted to leave a legacy (Dave’s Baby Step 7), it becomes even more important for the executor to distribute all assets correctly. And if the executor knows or loves the beneficiaries? Even better.
For in-depth details about the role of an executor and what they do, we put together a complete guide to being the executor of an estate.
How to Select an Executor for Your Will
Let’s not downplay this. Choosing an executor for your will is a vital part of the estate planning process. You need to find someone you can trust 100% to fulfill your final wishes and take on the task of distributing your assets.
If you tap the wrong person (our fingers are crossed that never happens to you), let’s just say that your family could be in for a world of hurt after you’re gone.
So how should you decide?
Let’s make this easy. Here are some things to consider before you ask someone to be your executor.
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Think of someone you know (family member? friend?) who’s shown that they’re trustworthy, conscientious and good at talking with people. Does anyone immediately come to mind? If so, you’re already off to a great start.
Keep in mind that the person you’re considering also needs to be mature. Of course, we all have our moments of silliness, but in general, does this person handle life events with a level head and an honest heart?
While we’re on the subject of maturity, there’s something else to consider. Most states require executors to be at least 18 years old without any felony convictions.
Remember too that an executor might need to pay taxes on behalf of your estate and/or calculate asset distribution. If needed though, they can always hire an accountant or lawyer, so don’t stress too much if the person you’re considering isn’t a math whiz or a legal nerd.
You need to think about where your potential executor lives. Here’s why. They end up spending a good chunk of time working with the courts in your area.
Is this a deal breaker? Not necessarily. If you already have someone in mind who has all the right personal qualities but lives out of state, research your state’s requirements for executor location. Who knows? Virtual meetings might be perfectly acceptable. Do some digging.
Here’s something else to think about. The amount of time needed for an executor to handle your affairs when you’re gone could be enormous. We’re not talking about 10 minutes here and there. Depending on the complexity of your estate, it could take months or even years. Does the person you have in mind have enough free time to make that kind of time commitment?
We’re all busy, yes, but some of us are busier than others (single parents with small kids immediately come to mind). Think hard about whether or not they have the bandwidth to take on a new responsibility.
Finally, once you settle on a suitable candidate, be honest with them about what you’re asking. And try to remember that they do have the option to say no. Worse case? If you’re unable to find someone appropriate, you can always hire an outside professional executor.
Take the Next Step
Now that you know what an executor does and how to select one, isn’t it time to take the next step and create your will?
We recommend connecting with Mama Bear Legal Forms—a RamseyTrusted provider. They’ll help you create a commonsense document that clearly outlines what happens after you die. Plus, there are bonus points here—you’ll also be helping your executor save time and make sense of a difficult situation.