Obviously, you cannot be in charge of passing your own estate through probate and distributing your assets to your heirs after you pass away. Somebody else will have to do that job for you. In New York, someone who handles a deceased person’s final affairs is called the executor, though other states refer to it as a personal representative.
Serving as an executor can be an honor and a way to ensure that a parent or other loved one’s final wishes get carried out the way they wished. But it is also a big job and responsibility. State law says that anybody who is at least 18 years old, is of sound mind and has no felonies on their record can serve as an executor. But realistically, not everybody who fits that description will be qualified to execute your estate when the time comes.
What about my spouse or one of my kids?
New Yorkers often name their spouse as executor. Your husband or wife might be an excellent choice if you predecease them. But if they are not experienced in financial matters or struggling with dementia, being an executor might be more than they can handle. And if you are unmarried, divorced or widowed, you will have to pick somebody else.
Alternatively, you could pick one of your children. However, your children might currently still be minors and unable to be executors. Some adult children have a strained relationship with their parents, or are struggling with mental illness or drug addiction, so they are not an appropriate choice.
Though most people choose a relative, you don’t have to. A trusted friend can be your executor, as can a professional like a banker or attorney who regularly handles probate matters and is familiar with your affairs. The choice depends on your family situation, your personal preferences and other factors particular to you. You can also amend your will to change your executor at any point.
If you are unsure, you can always discuss whom to pick as executor with your estate planning attorney.