The first step most people take in planning for the end of life is creating a will. Wills usually include asset distribution, disinheritance, funeral wishes and guardianship if applicable. Another piece of information it must contain is the executor of the estate.
You may have everything else figured out but are not sure about who to name as executor. Understanding the responsibilities that the role entails can help you make the right decision.
Duties of the executor of an estate
The purpose of the executor is to administer your estate upon your passing. The representative must go through the probate process to validate your will. He or she must also collect and distribute your property to the named beneficiaries, as well as settle debts and pay taxes. You may grant additional power for other tasks relevant to your estate.
Qualities to look for
The person does not need to have extensive financial or legal knowledge, but some experience or understanding of those subjects is beneficial. Anyone you consider must be reliable, fiscally responsible and respectful of your wishes. These traits reduce the risk of a breach of fiduciary duty, which would require the court to appoint a new executor. Make sure anyone you select is willing and able to serve, and name a second choice in case the first cannot or will not serve when the time comes.
Options of executors
Family members, surviving spouses and friends may be executors. However, take into account the stress, additional burdens, grief and life changes they will experience once you are gone. A better idea is to request in your will for the executor to utilize the services of an estate planning attorney to ensure the process goes according to plan and in a timely manner.
Additionally, these individuals cannot qualify to represent your estate:
- Physically or mentally incapacitated adults
- Convicted felons
- Non-U.S. citizens
- Non-Florida residents unless related to you
The best approach is to have a lawyer help you choose the executor, understand and outline the person’s assignments, and offer guidance to the executor once you have passed.