Picking the right person to serve as executor of your estate

When making out your will, aside from deciding how to distribute your property, probably one of the most important tasks that you have is choosing an executor. Since the role of executor is an important one, picking the right person for the job is of crucial importance and can ensure that your assets are distributed in a prompt and efficient manner.

During the probate process in Florida, executors carry out important duties such as:

  • Identifying, managing and gathering the assets of the decedent
  • Locating the decedent's beneficiaries under the will
  • Paying the debts of the estate and resolving any creditor claims
  • Distributing assets according to the will's terms
  • Ensuring that tax and legal formalities are carried out
  • Paying estate administration expenses

Choosing an executor

Since selecting the wrong type of person to serve as executor can lead to tax problems, mismanagement of estate assets, and, in some cases, will contests, having an able executor is crucial to the efficient management of your estate. In many cases, people select a close family member to be their executor. Although this may be fine in some situations, experts recommend that you choose your executor based on their skills and abilities, rather than their relation to you. This is especially important if your estate is complex or has many assets. In such cases, it is helpful to select an executor with a legal or financial background.

In addition to having financial or legal skills, experts say a good executor is one that can handle conflict well, since the terms of your will can bring forth strong emotional responses in your beneficiaries, who may feel hurt by your decisions. Furthermore, experts recommend choosing someone that you feel that you can trust to follow your wishes that you have expressed in your will without using their role to take advantage of your beneficiaries.

If you cannot find a suitable person to serve as executor, experts recommend considering appointing a neutral third party. Many attorneys and financial professionals provide estate management services for a fee.

Once you have selected an executor, notify the selected person of your decision to confirm that they would be willing to accept the role. It is also important to name a couple of additional people as successors, in case the original person is later unable or unwilling to accept the responsibility. To minimize family conflict, inform family members of your choice of executor as soon as possible.

An attorney can help

Like in all other matters of estate planning, an executor should only be chosen after hearing the advice of an experienced attorney. An attorney can draw on their experience to identify any potential problems or pitfalls with your choices and ensure that they are avoided.