Finding the right person to serve as executor of your estate

Choosing an adequate executor is key to the efficient running of your estate.

When you are in the process of writing your will, you may focus most of your effort towards deciding how your estate will be divided among your heirs. However, another consideration worthy of as much attention is who is going to be in charge of administering your estate after you die. The person filling this role is called an executor (or personal representative). Failing to choose a good candidate for the role of executor can mean your estate is mismanaged or ends up tied up in probate litigation, so your choice is vital to the smooth running of your estate.

In New Jersey, executors have many important duties such as:

· Locating and managing the assets of the deceased

· Filing the necessary tax returns

· Paying valid debts, costs and administration expenses of the estate

· Distributing the assets to the beneficiaries according to the provision of the will

When you are thinking of a trusted person to serve as executor of your estate, you may automatically default to a close family member. Although this is a natural inclination, it is not always the best choice. According to experts, it is better to consider several factors, rather than focusing on your executor's relation to you.

· Ability. Probably the most important factor to consider is the abilities the candidate has. Since the executor's role is so important, choosing a person who is mature, trustworthy and honest is a must. Also, since the role requires the person to deal with bills and other financial and legal documents, it is especially helpful if the person has a legal or financial background.

· Temperament. Sometimes, the role of executor requires the person to deal with family members that are fighting with each other because they are confused or upset (as well as other adversarial situations). Because of this, it is important for your candidate to have a patient temperament and be good at problem solving and conflict resolution.

· Location and availability of person. The role of executor is sometimes time-consuming, so it is important to choose a candidate that has the time to do it properly. Also, it is ideal that the candidate reside close by or at least within the state in order to ensure the efficient administration of the estate.

· Complexity of estate. If you have a large or complicated estate, it may not be feasible to select a layperson for the role. In such cases, you may want to consider hiring an attorney that is experienced with probate and estate administration issues. Doing so will ensure that the special needs of your estate are taken care of.

Of course, once you have made your decision, it is best to inform the candidate of it, so you can ascertain their interest in taking on the role. Since your candidate may later die or become incapacitated or unable to fulfill the duties, it is a good idea to name an alternate executor in your will.

An attorney can advise you

Choosing a good executor is not always an easy task. To receive further guidance, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney can listen to your unique situation and recommend the best way to ensure that your estate planning goals are carried out.