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What traits should you look for when choosing your executor?

One of the most crucial aspects of developing your estate plan is determining who to name as your executor. This is the person who will oversee the disposition of your assets to your heirs and beneficiaries as you've designated. Your executor will also be responsible for paying any final bills, possibly selling your home and representing the estate in court if necessary.

It's wise not just to name an executor, but to designate a successor. That person would assume the job if your named executor is unable or unwilling to handle the responsibility when the time comes. Having a successor can also save you the trouble of having to amend your estate plan if your executor passes away before you do. It's generally best for the successor to be a younger person.

People often choose family members to be their executor. You may have a family member who would make a fine executor. However, sometimes having one family member administering the estate can cause or exacerbate conflict if others believe that person's being unfair or acting in their own interest.

Whether you choose a family member, friend or someone else, your executor should have the following traits:

Responsibility: That's key. They need to treat this as a job, because that's what it is. An executor doesn't need to be a legal or financial professional. However, they need to be willing to get professional guidance if necessary. They need to be able to meet deadlines and sometimes make difficult, unpopular decisions.

Patience: An executor often is besieged by family members and others making requests and even demands. They need to remain steady and calm in the face of drama and emotion.

Free of financial and legal issues: Courts often have to approve executors. That might not be possible if your executor has serious credit issues or has filed for bankruptcy. The same is true if they have a criminal record.

If you don't have someone in your life whom you feel comfortable asking to be your executor, you may be able to name a professional executor. Many financial companies offer these services for a fee.

If you have questions when making this crucial decision about someone's suitability or eligibility to be your executor, talk with your North Carolina estate planning attorney. They can offer valuable guidance based on your specific estate and family dynamics.

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