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Part two: Choosing the right executor to handle your estate

In our last post, we discussed some of the responsibilities executors in New Jersey face. It is no secret that the executor has a tough job. A recent article in the New York Times stated the varying expectations well by saying the executor will be responsible for "crawling through attics and placating disgruntled heirs" and he or she "should not only be honest and diplomatic, but also well organized, good with paperwork and vigilant about meeting deadlines."

That's a lot to ask of anyone, and there is a great deal resting on the decision. The difference between a good and bad executor can determine how smoothly the probate and estate administration processes run. With so much at stake, there are a few factors to consider before choosing an executor.

Should I choose a family member? Choosing a family member might mean he or she has a better understanding of the family dynamics and values. However, a professional, such as a lawyer or an accountant, might have the experience to move the process more efficiently.

How many executors should I name? Many parents wonder whether they should name all their children as executors. One lawyer said that was a recipe for disaster, adding, "Either they're going to fight, or one person's going to do all the work." In many situations, a better option is naming one child and listing the others as alternates.

After you choose an executor, there are still a few things left to do. Before you sign any legal documents, it is important to make sure the person you want to name is willing to be the executor. In addition, it can also be beneficial to explain your decision to loved ones. Explaining your rationale to family members can prevent anyone from feeling slighted. It's a lot to think about, but it is certainly better to determine your plans preemptively, rather than leaving loved ones wondering how they should handle your matters.

Source: The New York Times, "Choosing the Right Executor for Your Estate," Deborah L. Jacobs, 2 March 2011

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