Choosing the right person to act as executor of your estate

Next to having a will, choosing the right person to act as executor is the most important.

Many people know the importance of having a will. However, perhaps just as important is to have the right type of person as executor of the will. Picking a responsible person to serve as executor of the will can mean the difference between your heirs receiving what was left to them in a timely manner and having problems with your estate, such as tax issues, delays and mismanagement of assets. In some cases, an incompetent executor can lead to a will contest.

When the duties of an executor are considered, the importance of having an able person in the role becomes obvious. In Texas, some of the important duties an executor carries out during the probate process are:

• Identifying, gathering, managing and protecting the deceased's assets (e.g. bank accounts, stocks, real estate and personal property)

• Paying valid debts incurred by the decedent

• Locating beneficiaries listed in the will and facilitating the distribution of assets to them according to the terms of the will

• Managing legal and tax formalities

• Paying expenses of administrating the estate

Since the role of executor is one of considerable importance, selecting the right person for the job is crucial for a successful and efficient winding down of the estate. Experts offer the following tips when choosing an executor:

• Although many choose a family member to be the executor, it is better to choose someone based upon suitability for the role, rather than by closest relation, since the role can require some legal and financial know-how (especially if your estate is complex or has many assets).

• Choose someone whom you can trust, can follow your instructions, who is organized and is good with dealing with paperwork.

• Select a person that is good with handing conflicts, as the probate process can awaken familial strife.

• Choose a person that is not likely to take advantage of other family members.

• If you cannot think of a suitable person, attorneys and other professionals can act as executor for a fee that is paid out of your estate.

Once you have decided on a person to act as executor, it is important to immediately notify the person and make sure that he or she is willing to accept the responsibility. In addition, it is important to name a few other trust persons as successor executors, in case your original choice is unable (or unwilling) to fill the role. Once, you have made your decisions, inform your family members of your choices, so they will not be surprised at your choices after you die.

Speak to an attorney

When you are considering your estate plan, it is invaluable to do so with the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can ensure that the necessary documents are in place to carry out your final wishes and provide guidance on choosing a person to act as executor.