An important decision that affects your family and loved ones

How to Choose an Executor for Your Estate

by Gary Foreman

How to Conquer Debt eBook

You're writing your will and you need to name someone to take over after you've gone. But, how do you know that the person you name will be a good executor? What should you consider when you choose an executor for your estate?

To help us answer that question, we contacted Florida board certified elder law attorney Laurie E. Ohall. She's licensed in FL and OH with law offices in Brandon, FL.

Q: What exactly is an executor?

Laurie Ohall: Also referred to as a Personal Representative, the Executor is the person named in the Will who is in charge of the estate after a person dies. Their job is to gather up the assets, determine the bills of the estate, and pay them, and to make sure that the beneficiaries get their distributions after everything is completed.

Q: You warn people to be careful in choosing an executor. What are their duties? And why should we be careful?

Laurie Ohall: You want to make sure that the person you choose to be your executor is a responsible person and knows how to handle money because it will be their job to figure out what bills to pay, negotiate with creditors if there is not enough money in the estate, possibly invest funds (or continue the investments), sell real estate, file the final income tax return of the deceased, etc. This person should be fiscally savvy. Also, whomever you appoint cannot have a criminal history where they were convicted of a felony (felons cannot serve in a fiduciary capacity).

How to Choose an Executor for Your Estate

Q: Are some personality types better suited to being an executor? And are there some types that you shouldn't choose to be your executor?

Laurie Ohall: Someone who is good at working with others and is a good money manager is best. They also need to be organized. These are all good characteristics. Someone who fights with other family members or who is not fiscally responsible may not be a good fit.

Expert Interview: Selecting Beneficiaries for Your Retirement Accounts

Q: Are there any legal requirements that should be considered in choosing an executor?

Laurie Ohall: They must be 18, mentally and/or physically able to perform their duties, and cannot have been convicted of a felony. Also, if they live out of the state of Florida, then they must be related to you by blood (child, sibling, uncles, aunts, parents, or the spouse of such a person) or be a legally adopted child or parent of the decedent. State laws may vary.

We recommend getting professional estate planning help, but if paying a professional is not in your budget, consider Nolo's estate planning products including wills and living trusts.

Q: What about fees? How much would a corporate executor charge for their services?

Laurie Ohall: Florida law allows a personal representative to receive a commission of 3% of the value of the estate, up to the first $1 million, and then it is a sliding scale after that; however, if the decedent's Will provides for a different type of compensation amount, this will be allowed by the court.

Q: Should family members be paid if they act as executors?

Laurie Ohall: They can be, but they do not have to take compensation. If they choose to be compensated, it is usually the 3% allowed by law.

Reviewed March 2018

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Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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