At some point in your life, you will probably either choose an executor to handle your own affairs, or you will be named as an executor in someone else's will. Either way, it is important to have a realistic understanding of what an executor does, who is allowed to be named an executor, and what some of the big mistakes that are made by executors.
I am reminded of a client I had who was adamant that the only people he would be comfortable handling his estate were immediate family members. His mother and father had already passed away, leaving his brother, who was illiterate, and his two deadbeat children, one who was institutionalized for drug and alcohol abuse, and the other, who was in prison. This client named his brother as his executor, who was promptly told he was unable to qualify because he was illiterate, which left his children, neither of which could serve as his executor. The courts appointed an executor for him, someone who knew nothing about him and this is exactly what he did not want.
An executor is responsible for gathering the assets of the deceased, accurately reporting them to the court, and then subsequently distributing them according to the deceased's will. It is such an important position and you should always carefully consider whether the person you have chosen for this position is capable of carrying out such duties. Also, you need to take into consideration what North Carolina has to say about who can qualify as an executor. When selecting an executor, North Carolina law says that a person is disqualified from serving as an executor who is 18 years old, is incompetent, is a convicted felon, is a nonresident without a resident agent, is a corporation, is illiterate, or is someone who the clerk of superior court finds unsuitable for any reason.
Many times, once an executor is appointed, he or she does not honor their fiduciary duties. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen an executor make is the failure to communicate with the family members, heirs, and loved one of the deceased. It's understandable that family wants to be kept in the loop during the administration of the estate. Please ensure when you are choosing someone as your executor, that you choose someone who is able to ensure family harmony. Sometimes, the deceased leaves instructions for the executor to distribute family heirlooms as they see fit and you want someone who is trustworthy and can manage family dynamics in this scenario.
Another common error an executor makes is failing to hire professionals as needed, such as CPAs, tax professionals, appraisers, attorneys, financial advisors, etc. You need someone as your executor who can recognize when something is too complicated and call in help when necessary. Mismanaging your estate could be detrimental to your heirs and loved ones who you designated certain money and property.