As noted in a previous blog, being an executor of an estate can be a thankless job.  There are ways, however, that can allow you to make the job and life of an executor easier and less painful.  It is a job that carries with it much responsibility, so taking a few proactive steps may help to save the executor a lot of heartache.  One of the first steps you need to do, even before helping a named individual is to name the individual.  In other words, pick the right person; in fact it is even better to pick a few individuals as successors in the event that the executor passes away before you or is otherwise unable to serve as the executor of your estate.  Even better is to pick two people who will serve as co-executors; if you do this, you must make someone the primary person who shall serve and who has the final authority to make whatever decision needs to be made in the event that there is a disagreement.  

It is important to keep in mind that the person you chose is going to in charge of your assets that you amassed throughout your life.  All other things being equal, it is best to have someone who lives local and in the same state as you.  Few things in life provide such a stark choice.  It may be more important to you and the heirs, however, that you pick someone who is familiar with you, your wishes and your assets, even if they live further away or in a different jurisdiction.  If you choose a professional, such as an attorney, it is important to keep in mind that there will be costs associated with this.  If you permit and allocate a specific payment structure into the will or testamentary trust, it may not matter, since even a family friend or relative may also be entitled to a fee.  Finally, it is best to speak with that person in advance to ensure that they understand that they are being named as the executor of your estate and that they will do so.

        There are also some steps that you should take in advance to help make their job easier:

  • Make a list of all safe deposit boxes which contain important legal documents, such as deeds, most importantly deeds to burial plots, life insurance policies, information on investment accounts and the like and where you will deposit all future codicils or amendments to your will; and
  • Make sure that all necessary accounts are titled as joint accounts where necessary; and
  • Leave plans for any prepaid funerals or how you want to have your memorials; and
  • Make plans for how to sell hard to value assets; and
  • Decide who will get sentimental assets; and
  • Compensation for the executor of your estate.

As with anything in life, you will always be best served in such decisions by consulting with someone experienced in such matters, such as an experienced estate planning attorney.  


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