Four tips for appointing a responsible estate executor in a will

This article looks at four of the most important qualities to look for when choosing an estate executor.

Choosing an executor is not a decision to take lightly. The executor is the person who will be responsible for ensuring that when a person passes away, his or her estate is administered and distributed in accordance with the deceased's wishes. While those wishes are often laid out in a will, an executor has quite a bit of power when choosing how to distribute the estate in what order. Closing the deceased's accounts, paying debts out of the estate, and ensuring that beneficiaries receive their share of the estate are all duties of the executor. Below are four tips for picking an executor.

1. Trust matters most

The most important quality in an executor is undoubtedly trust. Executors have quite a bit of power over the deceased person's estate, so it is imperative when writing a will that one choose an executor who will treat the job with the respect it deserves. As Forbes points out, for those who can't think of a family member or friend that they would trust with the task, appointing a professional executor is also a possibility, although it will cost extra.

2. Think about the other beneficiaries

Family disputes are all too common when an estate is being distributed. While there is no foolproof way to avoid such disputes entirely, the choice of executor should not be designed to exacerbate an already tense situation. While it is perfectly legal to appoint an heir as an executor, in some cases other heirs who have a history of not getting along with the executor may object.

3. Be aware of disqualifications

As Nasdaq points out, not everybody can serve as an executor. Most courts will require that the executor be able to sign checks and not have a criminal history. Any felony convictions are almost guaranteed to disqualify someone from serving as an executor. Non-U.S. citizens who live outside of the United States will also have trouble getting approved.

4. Executors need to be responsible with money

While financial expertise is not necessary for being an executor, it certainly helps. What does matter, however, is that the executor be in good financial standing. Putting somebody who has significant debts in charge of an estate is almost always a bad idea. Furthermore, courts will require an executor to be bonded, which is a form of insurance in case the executor runs off with the funds from the estate. If the executor has a poor credit history or has declared bankruptcy in the past, then it is unlikely that a bonding company will insure them.

Estate planning and administration

An estate planning and administration attorney can help those who have been appointed executors and are feeling overwhelmed by their duties. An attorney will help an executor through the administration of an estate, thus ensuring that the estate is distributed smoothly while minimizing the potential for disagreements to break out.