Choosing the right person to be the executor of your Last Will and Testament is crucial to ensure your wishes are carried out smoothly and efficiently.
The executor’s job is to ensure your debts and taxes are paid and that the remaining assets are distributed according to the terms of your Will. To do this, the executor typically has to go through probate. Probate is a court-supervised legal process that wraps up a person’s affairs after they pass.
In addition to these administrative duties, your executor may be asked to mediate disputes among your beneficiaries. In short, being an executor involves a great deal of responsibility!
Selecting the wrong person can lead to a number of issues. These include tax problems, mismanagement of funds, unnecessary delays, and conflict amongst your loved ones.
When choosing the right person to be your executor, here are some things to consider:
1. Know your state’s requirements.
State law dictates who may serve as an executor. In Georgia, you can name anyone as your executor so long as the person is over 18-years-old and of sound mind.
Unlike some states, Georgia law does not require that the executor live in-state. However, your executor will likely find it easier to fulfill their probate court duties if they live locally.
2. Understand what qualities matter.
While a financial or legal background certainly helps, neither are prerequisites. Your executor can always hire help when needed. For example, they can hire an accountant to assist with tax returns or an attorney to guide them through the probate court process.
It is far more important to name someone you trust, that is good at getting things done, and communicates well. Probate can be a long process, even when there are no issues. Beneficiaries can often grow impatient, especially if they don’t know what’s going on with the estate. For this reason, communication skills are imperative for an executor.
3. Broaden the scope of your options.
People often select a family member or close friend as their executor. If you don’t have a friend or family member you feel comfortable naming, another option is to select a financial institution, such as a bank or trust company.
A financial institution is a neutral third-party with no conflicts of interest. The downside of this option is that they almost always charge a fee for their services. If you decide to name a financial institution or professional as your executor, make sure you understand their fee structure.
4. Use caution when naming co-executors.
Typically, when someone wants to name more than one person as their executor, it is because they either want to spare someone’s feelings or they assume it will make the job easier to name more than one person.
But rarely does it make sense to name more than one person as your executor. Even if they get along, that does not necessarily mean they will work well as co-executors. Furthermore, some tasks require all of the co-executors to act together. This can make things more complicated, especially if the executors do not live near each other.
5. Name a backup.
While your first-choice executor may agree to fulfill the duties of the role, his or her circumstances may be completely different when the time comes. For this reason, we encourage our clients to name at least one alternate.
6. Don’t put it away and forget about it.
What works perfectly today may not work years from now. This is why it’s important to revisit your estate plan every few years to ensure it always reflects your wishes.
Given the importance of choosing the right person for the role of executor, it is imperative to have an estate plan so that the choice is yours. Without a Will, a judge will choose someone for you.
For more information or to discuss the estate planning options, call our office at (678) 784-4150 to speak with an experienced Georgia estate planning attorney today.