February 7, 2017

What are my options for choosing an executor for my will? I was considering asking one of my kids to do it but I don't think any of them are up for the job. What can you tell me?

Choosing an executor - the person or institution you put in charge of administering your estate and carrying out your final wishes - is one of the most important decisions in preparing a will. The right executor can help ensure the prompt, accurate distribution of your possessions with a minimum of family friction. Some of the duties required include: 

  • Filing court papers to start the probate process.
  • Taking an inventory of everything in the estate.
  • Using your estate's funds to pay bills, including taxes, funeral costs, etc.
  • Notifying banks and government agencies like Social Security and the post office of the death.
  • Preparing and filing final income tax returns.
  • Distributing assets to the beneficiaries named in the will.

Given all the responsibility, the ideal candidate should be someone who is honest, dependable, and well organized. 

Who to Choose

Most people think first of naming a family member, especially a spouse or child, as executor. If, however, you don't have an obvious family member to choose, you may want to ask a trusted friend, but be sure to choose someone in good health or younger than you who will likely be around after you are gone.

Also, if your executor of choice happens to live in another state, you'll need to check your state's law to see if it imposes any special requirements. Keep in mind that if the person you choose needs help settling your estate, they can always call on an expert like an attorney or tax accountant to guide them through the process, with your estate picking up the cost. 

You could also name a third party executor like a bank, or a professional, such as an attorney, who has experience dealing with estates. If you need help locating a pro, the National Association of Estate Planners and Councils (naepc.org) and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (naela.org) are great resources that provide directories on their website to help you find someone.

Executor Fees

If you opt for a third party executor, it will cost your estate. Executor fees are set by each state and typically run anywhere from 1 to 5 percent depending on the size of the estate.

Get Approval

Whoever you choose to serve as your executor, be sure you get their approval first before naming this person or entity as executor in your will. And once you've made your choice, go over your financial details in your will to let your executor know where you keep all your important documents and financial information. This will make it easier for the executor after you're gone.


Unsure of how to divide your estate? Request our FREE book, Provide and Protect, which will provide you with choices on how you can provide for your loved ones, receive tax benefits, generate potential retirement income and support charities at the same time. We also offer a free estate and gift planning guide to assist you. Information in this kit includes a workbook, suggested beneficiary language and more information on how to give back and support Texas A&M University. 

This article is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Senior." The articles are offered as a helpful and information service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics.