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Choosing an executor is one of the most critical decisions when drafting an estate plan. Ideally, this person steps in and takes charge of the estate, fulfilling a variety of obligations. Relevant jobs include distributing assets, paying or collecting outstanding debts, filling out the paperwork involved with probate, and generally remaining fair and honest when dealing with the family and other beneficiaries.

Clearly, it is an important and demanding role, yet too often the deceased picks someone unable or unwilling to assume these responsibilities. Below are some criteria to consider when choosing an executor:

  1. Pick someone responsible: They have to be good with meeting deadlines, can make hard decisions, be proactive and effectively communicate all necessary information to the beneficiaries.
  2. Pick someone with no credit issues: This shows that they understand the financial issues and often means there is no temptation to redirect the money for their benefit or debts.
  3. Pick someone younger: Many people do not update their wills often, so it is best to pick a person that is very likely to be alive and active at the time when the decedent dies.
  4. It need not be someone local: The executor can often perform their duties from a different state as long as they work with a local estate law attorney, often this can be the same lawyer who drafted the will and estate plan.
  5. Pick a neutral person: Families are lovely, but they are also complex. Sometimes children may not get along, or there is a polarizing figure in the mix, such as a stepparent. It is best for all to use someone who will not use their position to exact some revenge and gets along with everyone.
  6. Pick someone patient and grounded: Grief will affect people in different ways, but a choice who is “even-keeled” can often address the matters at hand without bringing their issues to the table.

The right person helps the process go more smoothly

The right person may be a family member, a family friend or a legal professional. Whoever the deceased picks, the right choice can be one of the best gifts they can give to their loved ones.