How to Choose an Executor for Your Will: Essential Tips and Advice

By Jacob M. Fabian, Esquire
Estate Planning Attorney

Choosing the executor for your Will is a critical decision that will significantly affect the success of your estate plan. To help you choose the right person for the job, here are some essential tips and key considerations.

1. Understand the Role of an Executor

The executor (also known in Pennsylvania as the “personal representative”) is the person responsible for administering a deceased person’s estate. This deceptively simple job description includes duties such as:

  • Identifying and collecting all the decedent’s assets;
  • Paying all of the decedent’s debts and obligations;
  • Filing legal papers with the probate court;
  • Filing necessary tax returns; and
  • Distributing remaining assets to beneficiaries.

These tasks can be time consuming, confusing, and, in some cases, technically demanding. For this reason, an executor is usually allowed to receive reasonable compensation for their services. It is crucial to consider the complexity of your estate and choose an executor who is willing and able to carry out the role.

2. Qualities of a Good Executor

Your executor should be someone whom you trust to administer your estate. It may seem like an oversimplification, but a trustworthy executor ensures that the terms of your Will are carried out accurately, fairly, and efficiently. A good executor also must be able to remain impartial. For example, a beneficiary who is named as executor may face a conflict of interest between their personal interest and their duties to the estate. You must consider whether your chosen executor is able to put their responsibilities ahead of their interests.

3. Considerations to Prioritize

Suppose you have multiple candidates whom you trust to administer the estate—this is a good problem to have. To break any such ties, consider age and health, family dynamics, and geographic proximity. Your executor usually should be someone that you expect to outlive you. Additionally, your executor should be someone with whom your beneficiaries will get along. Lastly, an executor who lives nearby may find it significantly easier to manage your estate, as compared to an executor who lives hours away.

4. Professional Fiduciaries

If you are in the opposite situation (no ideal personal candidates), then you may want to consider a professional fiduciary for your executor. Professional fiduciaries include attorneys, accountants, banks, or trust companies who may serve as your executor. Using a professional fiduciary can ensure that your executor has the technical expertise, experience, and impartiality necessary to administer your estate. However, professional fiduciaries usually charge higher fees, and they may be unfamiliar with your family dynamics. Whether a professional fiduciary is right for you will depend on the specific circumstances unique to your estate.

5. Legal Requirements

Some jurisdictions may have specific legal requirements for who may serve as executor, including age or residency. In Pennsylvania, any person over the age of 18 or any corporation authorized to act as a fiduciary may serve as an executor. Unless expressly waived in your Will, an executor who is not a Pennsylvania resident may be required to execute and file a fiduciary bond prior to administering the estate, and this bond may range in cost from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

6. Final Advice

Once you have carefully considered these factors and chosen an appropriate executor, it is time to document your choice by writing a Will. At the Estate Planning Centers at Coulter & May, P.C., our entire practice is dedicated to comprehensive estate planning and administration—including Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills. For more information or to book a consultation directly, please contact us at (412) 253-7526 or visit us online at

About Our Law Office

At the Estate Planning Centers at Coulter & May, P.C., we devote our practice to estate planning and assisting families through such transition times with estate and trust administration counseling. We offer guidance and advice to our clients in every area of estate planning, and offer comprehensive and personalized estate planning consultations. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar or to book a consultation directly, please contact us at (412) 253-7526 or visit us online at

Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is a conversational summary of a complex area of law and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. No person should rely upon the content of this article for making any decisions, and should instead consult with appropriate legal and tax professionals.