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Choosing the right executor for your estate

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2023 | Probate & Estate Litigation |

Deciding to set up an estate plan is a wise choice. Once you have your will and other estate planning documents in place, you must choose an executor.

An executor is someone who carries out your wishes according to the terms of your will after you pass away. This is done through the Georgia probate system.

What will my executor do?

The executor has many responsibilities. They essentially step into your shoes, performing many tasks including identifying and valuing your assets, paying your debts, filing your taxes and distributing your assets pursuant to your will.

If this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Therefore, you should give a lot of thought and consideration to who you choose as your executor.

You can choose an attorney or other professional to serve as your executor if you would prefer that over a family member or friend, but there might be additional fees associated with this. Otherwise, the only legal requirements are that they are over the age of 18 and of sound mind.

Responsible parties only, please

Responsibility is one of the most important qualities of an executor. An executor receives payment for their duties, so when considering who to appoint as your executor, think about how you would expect that person to perform their duties for any other job.

Whie it is not a legal requirement it helps if your executor is someone in good financial standing. An executor is required to post a bond with the court.

A bond is like an insurance policy for your estate. Its purpose is to pay beneficiaries if the executor takes off with the money from your estate. If your executor has many debts, no credit history or a bankruptcy on their record may not be able to get bonded.

Stay away from drama

Perhaps you have family members or beneficiaries who have conflict between them. It is usually best to not choose one of these people as your executor. They may use their position as executor to intentionally prolong the process or cause other complications to get back at the beneficiary they have problems with.

Once you have your executor selected, your work is not over. Choosing a backup executor, preferably someone younger, is a good idea. Your estate could end up being probated after your first chosen executor has passed away themselves or is no longer available.

Having a backup executor who is more likely to still be in a capacity to serve can help avoid the probate court appointing an executor who you would not have approved of.

You can specifically name a backup executor or leave the language general, such as specifying that any of your children at or above the age of 30 at the time of your death can serve as executor.

Do not make this decision lightly

Choosing the right executor is more important than you may realize. If your executor fails to complete their duties or engages in unethical behavior, this is a breach of their fiduciary duty.

This duty requires them to act in a certain manner and put the financial interests of the estate above their own. A breach of fiduciary duty often leads to complex, costly and lengthy probate litigation. This is likely not something you want your loved ones dealing with after you pass away.