Should You Choose a Relative as Executor of Your Estate?

You may not be a millionaire, but maybe you have a good amount of money set aside to build a legacy. You want to give to your alma mater or an organization or charity close to your heart, or donate valuable artwork to a museum. You also want assurance it will happen after you’re gone. Creating a will and/or estate plan is one way to prepare for the future of your money and property, and once you have decided upon bequests you must choose somebody to serve as executor.

Your first instinct may be to pick somebody close to you like your spouse – if he/she survives you – a sibling, or one of your children. It’s common for a family member to take on such responsibilities, but is it necessarily the correct choice? This is not to say you should suspect a relative will not carry out your final directives, but when it comes to distributing money and liquidating assets, especially if you have a sizable estate, you want somebody with experience.

As you prepare your will or trust, here are few things to consider with regards to selecting the person who will take charge after your death.

Who survives you? It’s difficult to predict who will outlive you. You may think choosing a younger relative will work, but it doesn’t always. You can list more than one executor – somebody from your family and a professional administrator such as a trust company as a backup – to make sure your bases are covered. An experienced attorney will be able to help you think on the options in your family and introduce you to trust companies that might be a good fit for your needs.

Who knows the law? The rules of probate or trust administration vary in each state. If you are in Virginia and your nearest relative lives somewhere else, they may not be familiar with the laws here, and it could create a delay in the disbursement of your estate. You might consider recommending the family member work with a Virginia attorney to ensure a proper handling of your final affairs.

Who wants the responsibility? Don’t feel disappointed if a family member declines the task you want to give. Carrying out a loved one’s final requests is an important job, and one that might prove too taxing or emotional for somebody close to the deceased to handle. Assuming your relative has other responsibilities like family and work, they may not have the time to execute your plan in a timely manner, whereas a trust company or attorney is better equipped to handle these responsibilities.

Wills and trusts are important legal documents, and must be thought out with care regardless of the size of your assets. It’s important to select the right person to oversee the distribution of your money and property, so take the time to consider your options and work with an experienced estate planning attorney when doing so.