When choosing an estate executor, it’s very important to pick the right person for the job. Many people choose family members, and it’s not that this is the wrong choice, but you still need to think carefully about who you choose and how well they can carry out the tasks at hand.

For instance, your estate executor may need to:

  • Pay the taxes
  • Gather the assets
  • Distribute the assets
  • Distribute copies of the will
  • Pay your bills
  • Maintain your property
  • Go to court on your behalf

A lot of the job is financial and rather technical. For instance, if you pass away unexpectedly, the executor suddenly has to get access to your bank accounts, pay your income taxes and property taxes for that final year, discover and pay off all other debts and then take what money is left and distribute it in accordance with the will. If something doesn’t add up — perhaps the will says they should distribute more money than is actually left after paying the taxes — the executor has to find a proper solution.

You need to find someone who is willing to do all of this, who has a vested interest in doing it correctly and who has the technical skills to pull it off. Picking the wrong person — choosing your firstborn just because they’re the oldest heir, for instance — can make a mess of your estate and may even lead to disputes during probate.

All involved in this process — you, your heirs, the executor, etc. — must be well aware of their legal rights and the options that they have at every step.