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Choosing an executor for your estate

Naming an executor is not a job to be taken lightly. Depending on the size of your estate, the responsibilities this person must eventually undertake could be relatively light, but those obligations could also be complex and therefore quite time-consuming. When you die, the distribution of your assets might take two years or longer due to the amount of work involved.

Why you should care

Unless you make a proper will and name an executor for your estate, the court will make the decision as to who your personal representative will be after your death. This would probably be your spouse, although an adult child or close relative might also be considered. You might not have been in favor of this decision, but you can take control by naming the person you feel you can depend on for carrying out your wishes and managing your estate.

Finding the best fit

When you begin to consider the candidates for executor, you might want to make a list, jotting down the family members and friends you feel are the most trustworthy. To avoid hurt feelings, some people tend toward naming all their adult children as co-executors. This can lead to problems, however, in that one person usually ends up doing all the work. Instead, you might think about handing the job off to a fiduciary, such as a bank, or having an attorney serve as executor. This course of action solves favoritism issues, and professionals are accustomed to taking on the responsibilities of an executorship.

Choosing the alternate

While you work on the task of choosing your executor, select a successor as well, who is a person sometimes known as a "successor representative." In the event that the executor you chose cannot fulfill his or her duties, the successor can step in. Use the same sort of criteria for naming the successor as you would in making your choice for primary executor.

Identifying your assets

When you go about the business of selecting your executor, consider the nature of your assets. On the financial side, there will likely be bank accounts, investments and retirement funds, although joint property you share with your spouse will be handled outside the will. Keep in mind that there may also be unconventional assets in the mix. These might include copyrights and patents, social media accounts that generate income and even leftover frozen embryos that, in these modern times, are considered property. When you start thinking about everything involved, naming an executor may not be all that easy. However, you can turn to an attorney experienced in estate planning to help you sort it all out.

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