8 Considerations for Choosing an Executor

February 20, 2024
Erin Calpin, Esq.

Selecting an executor for your will is one of the most critical decisions you'll make when planning your estate. This individual will be entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out your final wishes, managing your assets, and ensuring that your beneficiaries receive their inheritances as you intended. The right executor can make the process smooth and efficient, while the wrong choice could lead to delays, disputes, and added stress for your loved ones. In this blog post, we'll explore the factors to consider when choosing the right executor for your will, helping you make an informed decision that safeguards your legacy and provides peace of mind for the future.

What is an Executor of a Will?

An Executor of a Will is a person appointed by the testator (the person making the will) to carry out the instructions and wishes specified in the will after the testator's death. The Executor's primary responsibilities include:

1. Probate Process: The Executor manages the probate process, which involves proving the validity of the will in court and overseeing the distribution of assets according to the terms of the will.

2. Asset Management: They gather and manage the deceased person's assets, including property, investments, and personal belongings. This may involve selling assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

3. Notification of Beneficiaries: The Executor is responsible for notifying beneficiaries named in the will and ensuring they receive their inheritances as specified.

4. Debt and Tax Settlement: The Executor settles any outstanding debts and taxes owed by the deceased person's estate using estate funds, and files any required death tax returns (inheritance and estate tax returns).

5. Legal Proceedings: They may represent the estate in legal proceedings, including disputes over the will or claims against the estate.

The role of Executor is a position of trust and carries legal and financial responsibilities. Executors are typically chosen because they are trusted by the testator to carry out their wishes fairly and efficiently. It's common for individuals to appoint family members, close friends, or professionals such as lawyers or accountants to serve as Executors.

Who Can Serve as the Executor of an Estate?

The laws governing who can serve as the executor of an estate can vary by jurisdiction, but generally, the following criteria apply:

1. Age and Mental Capacity: The executor must be of legal age, which is usually 18 years old or older, and must be of sound mind. This means they must be mentally competent to fulfill the duties of the role.

2. Relationship to the Deceased: In many jurisdictions, there are no specific restrictions on who can serve as an executor based solely on their relationship to the deceased. However, it's common for the testator (the person making the will) to choose a family member, friend, or trusted advisor as the executor.

3. Residency: Some jurisdictions may require the executor to be a resident of the same jurisdiction where the deceased person lived or where the probate proceedings will take place. However, in many cases, out-of-state executors can be appointed if they meet other requirements and are willing to fulfill their duties.

4. Capacity to Fulfill Duties: The executor must have the ability to carry out the responsibilities of the role, which can include managing financial matters, communicating with beneficiaries, and navigating legal processes. Executors who lack the time, knowledge, or willingness to fulfill these duties may not be suitable for the role.

5. Legal Restrictions: Certain individuals may be prohibited from serving as executors due to legal reasons, such as convicted felons or individuals who have been declared bankrupt.

It's essential for the testator to choose someone they trust to serve as their executor and to discuss their decision with that individual beforehand to ensure they are willing to accept the responsibility. Additionally, it's advisable for the executor to seek legal advice to understand their duties and obligations before accepting the role.

How Do I Choose the Right Executor for My Will?

Choosing the right executor for your will is a crucial decision, as this person will be responsible for carrying out your final wishes and managing your estate. Here are some steps to help you choose the right executor:

1. Consider Trustworthiness: The most important quality in an executor is trustworthiness. You need someone who will honor your wishes, act in the best interests of your beneficiaries, and handle your affairs with integrity.

2. Evaluate Responsibility: Look for someone who is responsible and organized. Being an executor involves managing finances, communicating with beneficiaries, and navigating legal processes. Choose someone who can handle these tasks efficiently.

3. Assess Availability: Consider the availability of potential executors. Managing an estate can be time-consuming, so choose someone who has the time and availability to dedicate to the role.

4. Legal and Financial Knowledge: While not strictly necessary, having some legal or financial knowledge can be beneficial for an executor. If your estate is complex or involves significant assets, you may want to choose someone with expertise in these areas or someone who is willing to seek professional advice when needed.

5. Family Dynamics: Consider the dynamics of your family and relationships between potential beneficiaries. Choosing a neutral party or someone who can remain impartial can help prevent conflicts among heirs.

6. Discuss Your Decision: Once you've identified a potential executor, discuss your decision with them. Make sure they understand the responsibilities involved and are willing to accept the role. It's essential to have open communication and ensure that your chosen executor is comfortable with the duties they will be undertaking.

7. Choose Backup Executors: It's a good idea to name one or more backup executors in case your primary choice is unable or unwilling to fulfill the role when the time comes.

8. Seek Legal Advice: Consult with a legal advisor to ensure that your choice of executor aligns with the legal requirements in your jurisdiction and that your will is properly drafted to reflect your wishes.

By carefully considering these factors and choosing someone you trust and who is capable of fulfilling the role, you can ensure that your estate will be managed according to your wishes after your passing.


No items found.

Getting in touch

* indicates required

Want to know more about creating an estate plan or the probate process?

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at alec@bmcestateplanning.com. We will treat your information with respect. For more information about our privacy practices please visit our website. By clicking below, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

About us

Borenstein, McConnell & Calpin, P.C. is a Wills & Estate Planning law firm serving Central and Northern New Jersey, as well as New York City. We strive not only to give you a great client experience, but to become your trusted adviser for life. To reach Alec, please send an email to alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

NJ Offices:
155 Morris Avenue, Suite 201
Springfield, NJ 07081

3 Werner Way, Suite 230
Lebanon, NJ 08833

NY Office:
4607 Fort Hamilton Parkway
Brooklyn, NY 11219