The executor of your Will is the person you appoint to administer and oversee your Will. A successor trustee plays the same role for persons who have a trust-based plan.
Your executor or successor trustee is legally and financially responsible for making sure your heirs, beneficiaries receive their property, and creditors receive payment for their debts. Your executor or successor trustee is also responsible for paying any estate taxes on the total value of your estate.
Because your executor or successor trustee is responsible for complying with state laws and federal tax laws, you should choose one wisely. Their fiduciary duties require him or her to be a responsible and trustworthy person. You should appoint someone who can diligently and quickly probate your will, administor your trust, notify and pay your creditors, file tax returns and pay taxes, and disburse any remaining property to your heirs. If you want to appoint one of your children, make sure you consider personality traits as well as age. If your oldest child is not the most responsible of your children, you may want to consider appointing another child.
For many folks, going outside their family or friends to find a good executor or successor trustee makes sense. Fortunately, there are licensed professionals known as professional fiduciaries who perform these services. An experienced and qualified estate planning attorney can assist you in finding a high quality fiduciary if needed.
Talk to your attorney about appointing an alternate or substitute executor or successor trustee in case your first choice is unavailable or unable to serve. If you appoint a substitute, your substitute should bear the same traits as your original choice. Will your substitute or alternate be able to handle daily details of your financial affairs and wind up your estate effectively and timely?