So you’ve made the decision to draft a will. That’s great! Creating an estate plan is an important first step to protecting your hard-earned assets. A will also saves your family from further heartache and confusion if you become incapacitated or fall victim to a serious accident.

By now, though, you have probably realized that drafting a will is far more complicated than simply writing out your wishes and signing a document. For one thing, you need to name an executor, sometimes called a personal representative. How do you decide who makes a good executor?

Make sure they’ll be around

Your first instinct when choosing an executor may be to name your spouse, your parents or another close relative like a sibling. If you are in your 20s or 30s, this should be fine, but keep in mind that your executor should ideally outlive you for many years to come. For this reason, you may also want to designate a few alternate or “successor” executors. These people can step in if your first choice is not available due to distance, incapacity or death.

Successor executors could even be your minor or hypothetical children with a few stipulations. You can specify that once your child reaches a certain age (25, 30, etc.), he or she could serve as executor if your first choice is no longer able to serve. Missouri law prohibits minors (those under 18) from serving as executors.

Make sure they live close by

In general, you want someone who lives in Missouri to serve as your executor. Being an executor is like taking on a part-time job, so you need someone who can work with the local probate court. In fact, if your executor lives out of state, Missouri law stipulates that he or she must appoint an “resident agent” who lives in the state to act on their behalf.

Make a decision on a personal vs. corporate executor

Did you know you can designate a corporation to serve as executor of your estate? Some people do not have anyone close by or whom they trust well enough to handle all of the personal and financial details of their estate. If that describes your situation, you may designate a bank, trust company, wealth management group, law firm or other corporate entity to act as your executor. In Missouri, corporate executors must be:

  • Authorized to act as a fiduciary
  • Located in Missouri unless the company files an application for a certificate of reciprocity with the Missouri Commissioner of Finance

Corporate executors are also generally paid from your estate, usually between five and 10 percent. So, if you wish to designate a corporate executor, make sure your estate finances can cover the fees.

Make sure they’re trustworthy and organized

Your executor will be responsible for handling a lot of important paperwork, filing estate taxes, paying off your creditors, and making sure your beneficiaries receive the gifts you intended them to get. Estate administration can take months or even years. It will require a detail-oriented individual with good common sense and sensitivity to meeting deadlines.

Most importantly, you want someone who will act fairly and without bias when it comes to handling your property and your money. Choosing a good executor therefore comes down to a matter of trust. If you do not trust a person to act as you would have wanted to, then keep looking.