Selecting a qualified executor is vital to carrying out your estate plan

According to the Wall Street Journal, there is no time like the present to make sure that all of your estate-planning ducks are in a row. For Massachusetts residents who are preparing their estate plan, one of the most important tasks before them is to select the right person to be the executor of their estate. An executor ultimately plays a highly pivotal role in carrying out one's estate planning objectives. The executor is responsible for collecting the assets of the estate, protecting the estate property, preparing an inventory of the property and paying off valid claims against the estate. Importantly, the executor is charged with distributing the estate property to the beneficiaries of the decedent according to the terms of the decedent's will.

The type of person you should select as your executor depends upon the type of estate you are leaving behind. In general, you need to find someone who is honest, responsible, diligent and organized. The New York Times noted that most people who are considering an executor end up naming a family member such as a spouse or an adult child. In theory, the advantage of this is that a family member may understand your intentions better than anyone else and might have ideas as to the whereabouts of assets that need to be inventoried. When there is no suitable family member to choose from, people often select a friend.

The AARP suggests that you select someone as executor who has good common sense. A person who has common sense is usually willing to ask for expert help if they run up against problems they do not feel they can handle without assistance.

Selection techniques

The Zachs Financial website offers some suggestions on how to go about choosing an executor in situations where you have several possible candidates to select from. It is advised that you might want to start the process by compiling a list of your closest and most trusted family members and friends. Include everyone with whom you have a solid relationship. Evaluate each name on the list for financial prowess, common sense, trustworthiness and an ability to work under stress. Remove from the list the names of people: (1) older than you are; (2) who have health issues; or (3) who live far away. Similarly, remove from the list anyone you feel may not have the time to perform the duties of executor since this is a time consuming job. Finally, do not select those you know would be objectionable to your beneficiaries.

Keep at the top of your list those with business savvy and an analytical mind. After selecting two or three candidates, begin contacting them and ask them whether they would be your executor. It might be a good idea to explain the duties of an executor in general terms in order to let the candidates decide whether they actually want to do the job. After you have selected someone as your first choice, consider lining up your second and third choices as alternate executors if the first person accepts the job. Make sure that your attorney lists your executor's full legal name in the will.

Seek legal advice

If you are interested in creating an estate plan, you should contact a Massachusetts attorney who has experience in estate planning. After talking to you and learning about your estate planning goals, an attorney can give you advice on who you might consider selecting as your executor.