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How to choose the right executor for your will

Published 5:40pm Thursday, July 25, 2013

Who to choose

Most people think first of naming a family member, especially a spouse or child, as executor. If, however, you don’t have an obvious family member to choose, you may want to ask a trusted friend, but be sure to choose someone in good health or younger than you who will likely be around after you’re gone.

Also, if your executor of choice happens to live in another state, you’ll need to check your state’s law to see if it imposes any special requirements. Some states require an out-of-state executor to be a family member or a beneficiary, some require a bond to protect your heirs in case of mismanagement, and some require the appointment of an in-state agent.

Also keep in mind that if the person you choose needs help settling your estate, they can always call on an expert like an attorney or tax accountant to guide them through the process, with your estate picking up the cost.

If, however, you don’t have a friend or relative you feel comfortable with, you could name a third party executor like a bank, trust company or a professional who has experience dealing with estates. If you need help locating a pro, the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (naepc.org) and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (naela.org) are great resources that provide directories on their websites to help you find someone.

Executor fees

Most family members and close friends (especially if they are a beneficiary) serve for free, but if you opt for a third party executor it will cost your estate. Executor fees are set by each state and typically run anywhere from 1 to 5 percent depending on the size of the estate.

Get approval

Whoever you choose to serve as your executor, be sure you get their approval first before naming him or her in your will. And once you’ve made your choice, go over your financial details in your will with that person, and let him or her know where you keep all your important documents and financial information. This will make it easier on them after you’re gone.

For more information on the duties of an executor, get a copy of the book “The American Bar Association Guide to Wills and Estates” fourth edition at ambar.org/wills or call 800-285-2221.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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