One part of having a last will and testament is that you get to name someone who will carry out your wishes after your death. The familiar term for this person is "executor", but in some states this person is known as a "personal representative." The primary duties of an executor after your death are to collect your assets, pay your debts and expenses, and distribute your remaining assets to your beneficiaries.  Here are some helpful criteria for choosing an executor of your last will.

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Your will executor should be organized and understanding
Ideally, your executor should be a person who is skilled in financial matters and who has a good understanding of your assets and your family situation. While the executor is often an individual, perhaps a family member or trusted friend, an executor also can be a bank that has a trust department. Many banks will serve as executor, but they will charge for the service. In most cases, when a friend or relative agrees to become your executor, he or she will waive or refuse a fee.  The flipside is that a friend or relative may try to act out of self interest when carrying out your wishes.  

You have restrictions on who you can appoint as an executor
There are some restrictions on who may serve as an executor. Many states will only appoint individuals who are residents of the same state. If you want to select a non-resident executor, contact your county clerk of probate court or an attorney to find out what your state allows. It is recommended that a second choice for executor be named in case the first choice refuses or is unable to serve.

You can appoint more than one executor
You can also choose two or more executors who will serve together as co-executors, so they can help each other with the finances and paperwork.  It’s a reliable method of ensuring that your beneficiaries are well taken care of.  However, there is the possibility of a stalemate between two executors, so if your estate isn’t too large, you may want to stick to one.  

Be careful of other external factors
When you are picking your executor, consider factors such as location.  It may be inconvenient for an executor to drive long distances to fill out paperwork and carry out duties of the estate.  Also, picking one of your children as an executor may cause envy among his or her siblings.  Even though they may be the most qualified for the job, family ties could be tested with your choice.  

Get approval from your probate court
Although not strictly obligated to do so, the probate court will generally appoint your choice of executor. When appointing the executor, the probate court will also look at whether you have selected a non-resident executor, as well as the bond requirements. These initial proceedings also include providing notice to heirs and creditors, resolving challenges to the last will, obtaining a federal identification number, and opening a checking account in the estate’s name.

Most jurisdictions require that the executor post a bond to protect the assets of the estate. To avoid the expense of the bond, you can request in your last will that the bond requirement be waived.

Get started Start Your Will Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Will Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.