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How do I choose an executor for my will?

Wills are the cornerstones of good estate plans. Part of the process of creating a last will and testament is choosing an executor or co-executors.

Your executor will "execute" the instructions in your will after you are gone. These duties include gathering all of your assets, paying expenses and debts, filing tax returns and distributing assets to your beneficiaries.

Sometimes, two heads are better than one. You may decide to pick two people to act together when performing the duties required of executors. While this can help split up the responsibilities, both must agree on any decisions made.

Choosing your executor

Your executor serves a vastly important service to your family and other beneficiaries after you are gone. Choose wisely by following these guidelines:

  • Age: Your executor cannot be under the age of 18 but should be someone who is likely to outlive you. If you are in your 40s or 50s, a healthy sibling could work well for the time being. However, if you are in your 80s or 90s, a younger relative or a corporate executor is necessary.
  • Expertise: You do not need a financial genius or someone with special training. Common sense, trustworthiness and an ability to make hard decisions are important factors, as is the willingness to know when to contact an expert for assistance.
  • Backup: Always designate a successor (backup) executor in the event your first choice is unwilling or unable to serve. Life circumstances can make it impossible for your designee to take on executor duties. This is why you should designate a successor. Some people even choose a corporate executor as a second backup.
  • Permission: Talk to the people you intend to designate as your executor and backup executor. A family member may feel uncomfortable being "in charge" or may be afraid of potential controversy between beneficiaries. This conversation can also allow you to have a discussion about the future with those you love.
  • Review: Review your will and rethink your decision every few years. Your first choice may have moved away or died. You or your backup may have a change of heart. You are free to revise the provisions of your will at any time during your life.

Gain an understanding of what a will can do for you and your family, and think carefully about who you want to carry out your last wishes.

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