Appointing an Executor From the Family May Not Be the Best Choice
Under the best of circumstances, creating harmony within the family is difficult, even while you’re alive and well. It takes an amazing amount of diplomacy and tact sometimes. Of course, keeping the family together after you pass away is an even more arduous task, especially since you're not there. While distributing assets and minimizing the tax bite are important to an estate plan, you should also try to keep the peace by filling key positions in your estate with the right people, keeping in mind the dynamics of those individuals within the family.
Executors Must Be Both Tough But Fair
When formulating your estate administration plan, a key part of keeping the peace is to choose the right person for each essential job is often just as important to keeping peace in the family as making sure everyone receives what they need or want, without taking a humongous tax hit. One of the key choices that needs to be made is the executor. Keep in mind that, while choosing an executor from within the family serves as a great compliment and honor, the position is in no way honorary. It can also be an enormous burden, since this person will administer and settle your estate when you're gone. Therefore, it's probably not a good idea to appoint your oldest child as executor just because he or she is your oldest. In fact, while a close family member is often the right choice, it's not always the case.
The number one consideration for choosing an executor isn't whether or not you can make a family member feel important, but to make sure they can do the job. They will also have to be strong enough to deal with the potential ill will others in the family might give them. The person you choose will have to be trustworthy, organized, diplomatic and fair-minded. They will also have to be patient enough to see the entire process through to completion. Regardless of a person's importance to the family, the executor you choose cannot be someone who can be petty, or who holds grudges, and they must have a reputation for common sense. Also important is choosing someone who will know when they have reached their breaking point and has the sense to get help from a professional when that happens.
Now or Later?
Often, the desire to make members of your family feel good makes people appoint co-executors. However, the administration of your estate is very important, and it's not something with no consequences. Whether you choose one family member or a half dozen, making them feel good right now is not an issue. It's all about making sure what happens to your legacy and your assets after you're gone aligns with your wishes and legal obligations.
Your estate is too important to hand over to an incompetent family member as a reward for being a nice person. Being a nice person is not as important as being competent. The executor of your estate must be capable of handling details, and he or she must have the temperament to handle family members and other heirs when their wishes aren't being met. Choosing the wrong person could end up causing more problems, by dredging up bad feelings among family members. You might inflict a little hurt right now, but that could save you a whole lot of hurt after you pass away.