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How do I select an executor as part of my estate planning?

Sometimes, people get so caught up in devising ways to distribute their property and assets after death that they fail to spend sufficient time deciding who should be in charge of those tasks. Arguably, the persons or institutions you name as the executor of your will, trustees in charge of your trusts, or guardians of your minor children are the most important decisions you could make as part of any estate planning.

Perhaps the first thing you should decide is which individuals or institutions have the requisite skills and the capacity to carry out the duties you intend to entrust to them. For example, granting fiduciary power to a reputable investment firm to handle your stock portfolio may be a wiser decision than leaving that job to a beloved nephew with a history of poor money management.

The same could be said for the executor of your will. As an executor, the persons or institutions you grant these powers to are legally obligated to carry out your wishes and act in your best interests. This is why it may be a wise decision to choose an estate planning attorney as your estate's executor. An executor can create an inventory of your assets and property after your death and distribute those items to your beneficiaries according to your wishes.

Additionally, an estate planning attorney acting as your executor can defend your estate from any challenges from creditors or others claiming pieces of your estate. Another thing to consider is that estate planning attorneys are usually experienced in understanding tax liabilities. For example, knowing how to properly structure a beneficiary trust to minimize future tax implications could potentially save your beneficiaries substantial costs.

Ultimately, the choice of the executor of your estate rests with you. However, a careful consideration of that choice is wise for one main reason. It is the best way to ensure that an individual or institution with adequate experience and ability can carry out your wishes and oversee your affairs in a way that would seem reasonable to you.

Source: American Bar Association, "Choosing the Executor of Trustee," accessed June 24, 2015

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