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What is an 'executor' and how do I choose one?

If you’ve never gone through the process of estate planning, some of the terms you hear can sound unfamiliar and even scary. But as with many things in life, a simple explanation can resolve much of the mystery and fear.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss what it means to appoint or be appointed as the “executor” to an estate. Once you go through the process of drafting your estate plan, you will need to appoint someone to fulfill this important yet manageable role.

In short, the executor of your estate will be someone that you entrust to handle your final financial obligations. First and foremost, your executor will be responsible for ensuring that your assets are distributed to your intended heirs as laid out in the will. He or she may also need to pay any final bills or estate taxes, appear in court on behalf of the estate (if necessary), and maintain any property (such as a house) until the estate is settled.

So who should you choose? It is common for individuals to choose family members to be their executor, including spouses, adult children and siblings. Regardless of how you choose, the person you ultimately appoint should be organized, a good communicator and honest. They should also be willing to take on the responsibility, so you may need to discuss it with them well in advance of officially appointing them.

If you have a simple will and only modest assets to divide, your executor will have very manageable duties. If your estate is more complex, however, you may want to introduce your executor to your estate planning attorney, who can serve as a helpful resource.

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