An executor is much like the captain of a ship and the probate process is comparable to navigating through the sometimes treacherous open ocean. Hopefully, you can stay out of trouble in these legal waters, but every will and every estate plan needs an executor to help you avoid certain dangers. An executor should be the one who gets you where you’re going with the least difficulty.
They’re not to be confused with an administrator, the difference being that the former is appointed by yourself through your will and an administrator is chosen by the clerk of court in the event that you haven’t already prepared one at the time of your passing. This is known as dying in testate.
Why is establishing an executor so important? They are literally going to be in charge of making sure that your property gets to the person you want to have it. You’ll also need to designate a secondary executor who will take their place in the event that they are disabled, incapacitated, not in good health, or simply decline the job when the time comes for them to carry out your wishes. Think of them as someone waiting in the batter’s box in case the primary executor is unable to perform his or her job.
One of the key attributes to look for in a potential executor is trustworthiness. You’ll want someone you can count on to captain that ship and avoid all the icebergs out there. You’ve spent time planning your legacy and making the right choices, building your ship from the ground up, if you will. All of that hard work could disappear in an instant if you don’t set sail with the right captain. It’s important to choose wisely or your whole plan could sink.
When you start thinking about it, there will likely be a short list of people that come to mind. Either a child, trusted friend, or another family member who is financially responsible and could be trusted with your estate. There are also some things you may want to think about allowing this person as your executor. You might want to let them serve without bond so they don’t have to get bonded by an insurance company.
You could give them power to sell land at a public or private auction to allow them to more easily liquidate or move property through your estate and avoid drawn out legal battles caused by disagreements between family members or other petitions to partition, which are lawsuits to split property that could occur. These are just a few of the things you should think about and discuss with your attorney while drafting a will and picking an executor.
Now that you understand the importance of an executor, where should you start? Begin by creating a plan of action. First, seek legal counsel. Next, speak with them about having a will drafted. There’s an old saying that says there’s no such thing as a simple will. The counsel you select should be able to tell you about the potential dangers you’ll face and whether a simple will meets your needs.
Come in prepared to name an executor, whether it’s a trustworthy child, another family member, or close friend who you think will be a great captain to your ship. You can also consider appointing co-executors, though having a single leader executing the final orders is often an easy way to avoid squabbling and in-fighting.
The quickest way to get this ball rolling, plan in motion, ship built, or will drafted, is to call an attorney. I have an excellent ebook on my website and other materials that can educate more on this subject. You can access this e-book and the rest of the information by going directly to www.mcelderlaw.com and check out that e-book along with my other materials that I’ve written on this subject.