First, it is important to understand what an executor does. I will explain in more detail what the executor does in another post, but for the time being you should understand that this is the person who will be appointed to wrap up your affairs upon your death. In other words, they will attempt to locate and gather together all of your assets, pay your debts, and then distribute what is left in accordance with your will. Depending upon the size and make-up of your estate, and the directions provided in your will, this can be a relatively simple process or a very lengthy, time-consuming, difficult and expensive process.
Generally, you want someone you trust to follow your directions as set out in your will, someone who understands your desires and objectives, and probably someone who is good in handling finances. Most individuals tend to choose family members or other close friends or relatives to act as their executor. But sometimes the most competent person should be chosen, even if that might not necessarily be a close family member.
The executor doesn’t need to be a CPA and they don’t need to personally do each task. But they should know enough to know when they need to hire help. Executors are like the boss of the process, but they are allowed to hire others to help with various aspects of the process– whether it is to hire an appraiser, an accountant, an investment advisor or an attorney.
The bottom line is that most people assume that being an executor is an easy task that can be accomplished by anyone, but because the probate process is so involved and may entail interaction with tax and legal professionals, only an intelligent, dependable person should be named as executor. If a person’s estate is large and complex enough, they may choose to designate a bank or trust company (often called a “corporate executor”) to handle the estate. While there is a fee for this service, you are assured that the job is being handled by professionals familiar with the processes.