Choosing an executor is one of the most crucial decisions you'll make as you develop your estate plan. If you don't designate an executor, the court will appoint someone to handle those responsibilities. Most people prefer to choose someone they know and trust.
Before you make that decision and ask someone to take on the responsibilities of your executor, it's essential to understand what those responsibilities typically involve. Following are the most common tasks of an executor:
- Paying the estate's bills and taxes
- Distributing assets as you've designated
- Representing the estate in court as needed
- Selling or distributing the home and other properties as you've designated and maintaining the properties until then
Because these responsibilities require time and some work, many people specify that their executor be paid a percentage of the estate's value for their services. The executor can also hire professionals to help carry out their duties as needed. These professionals are paid by the estate.
Most people choose their spouse, a sibling or an adult child. However, if there's conflict in the family, it may be best to consider a friend or someone else who's impartial and whose decisions people are likely to trust.
Other qualities to consider in a potential executor are organizational and communications skills. Of course, trustworthiness is essential. It's generally best to choose someone who lives nearby. Otherwise, they may need to travel to your area multiple times to deal with property issues and court appearances. It's often best to avoid choosing someone considerably older than you, as they're likely to predecease you.
You should always make sure your chosen executor is willing and able to take on the job when the need arises. Discuss the responsibilities with them to make sure they understand as much as possible about what the job involves.
The selected executor can always decide when the time comes that they don't want the responsibility. That's one reason why it's a good idea to name at least one alternate executor who can take on the role right away.
If you have a detailed, well-drafted estate plan, the executor's job will likely be considerably easier than if you leave some important matters unaddressed. An experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney can help you and can guide your executor when the time comes.