Part 2: What to Look for in an Executor

A good executor will combine “people skills”, trustworthiness, and financial acumen.  Thus, you should consider your selection carefully before simply nominating your spouse, your child, or a close relative.  Think of the appointment as employment — not a way to reward (or punish) a friend or a relative.

One desirable quality is perseverance in dealing with bills (especially the hospital, Medicare, ambulance and doctor charges incurred in a last illness).  Bills often require a lot of paperwork, so you should pick someone who has the time and patience to deal with bureaucrats and forms.

If there are complicated tax issues, or a business to run, you might choose co-executors.  This is a way to ensure that at least one person has legal or financial expertise, while the second co-executor may be closer to your family.  For example, a small business owner might appoint his or her spouse and a person with business expertise, and specify which executor will be responsible for which duties.  If you choose this course, though, be sure to select people or entities who will work together well.

The executor cannot be a minor or convicted felon, and must be a U.S. citizen.  Financial institutions can act as executors.  Occasionally, the decedent’s lawyer may serve as executor, although this is far less common than was once the case.  In Virginia, a nonresident may be appointed as executor, but he must provide a surety bond unless a resident co-executor qualifies at the same time.  Note, however, that such requirements may vary from state to state.

Whomever you choose, be prepared to provide in your will for a replacement executor in case the original executor dies or is unable or unwilling to act.  Otherwise, the court will have to choose the replacement.  What this means is that, in preparing your will, you should ideally have at least two qualified candidates for executor in mind.

Peter Goergen

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