An executor is the person someone appoints in their will to handle their estate when the person has passed on. When choosing an executor, it’s important to pick someone you can trust to handle the financial parts of the estate and who can also manage any conflicts that may arise. Many people choose their spouse to be their executor. Alternatively, people often choose an adult child to handle their estate.

What are the practical considerations in choosing an executor?

Anyone who is considering drafting a will should review their wishes and goals with an experienced estate planning and probate attorney. Some of the issues the lawyer will explain and review with you are regarding the selection of an executor are:

  • The type of executor. Many people choose someone they know to be their executor. The executor can also be a Tennessee financial institution such as a bank. Some people choose to have a bank be their executor since the bank is trained in handling financial matters. If there are family conflicts, a business such as a bank can serve as a neutral party.
  • The number of executors. In many cases, a testator (the person creating the will) will choose one person. There is no limit though. Multiple co-executors can be appointed. It’s usually advisable to appoint an odd number of executors so that the co-executors don’t have to run into court each time there’s a tie when there’s a dispute.
  • Alternative executors. Many of the people we trust may predecease us or may not be physically or mentally able to handle the estate when our time comes. For this reason, it’s advisable to appoint a younger alternate executor in case the first executor is deceased or not competent.
  • Understanding of financial matters. The executor should be competent enough to work with an attorney who will guide the executor through financial transactions. Executors act as fiduciaries for all the beneficiaries. The main duties of an executor are to:
    • Create an estate bank account
    • Identify the assets that must be distributed
    • Sell the assets that are required to be sold
    • Pay any taxes that may be due
    • Pay any creditors who are owed money
    • Pay any continuing bills such as a mortgage and utility bills until the estate is resolved
    • Arrange to retitle any assets that are being transferred
    • Account for all the assets and debts
    • Seek court approval for a distribution
    • Distribute the remaining assets
  • Time commitment. The handling of an estates can take months or even a year or more. The executor should be someone who has the time to handle all the details that closing an estate requires.
  • Dispute resolution. Some people may not be happy with their share of the estate or may question whether the executor is handling the estate assets appropriately. An executor should be someone who can handle these disputes – with the help of an experienced probate lawyer. Some estate disputes are essentially arguments about who their parent or relative liked best. A good executor should be someone who can get all the family members and heirs on the same page – so they can remember their loved one instead of fighting over the money.

For the record, anyone who is sentenced to time in a penitentiary can’t be appointed an executor under to Tennessee law. Anyone who is appointed as executor has a right to be paid a fee for their time.

At Shepherd & Long, PC, our Maryville estate lawyers have been representing the citizens of East Tennessee for 30 years. We help you decide which estate planning documents are right for your personal and financial situation. We’re ready to resolve or litigate disputes that may occur. For help ensuring your loved ones are protected when you die, call 865.982.8060 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.