Your estate – your property and assets along with your debts that you leave behind after you die – is one of the most challenging legal situations you might never find yourself in.

The status of your estate may not matter to you after you shuffle off this mortal coil, but it will matter to those who are left behind. That’s why you need to name a qualified executor for your estate.

Whether your estate is large or small, an executor will spend about two years paying your final bills, distributing your assets to your heirs and settling your final tax bills.

Legal requirements

In North Carolina, almost anyone can serve as an executor. The rules state that the executor must:

  • Agree to be your executor
  • Qualify to be your executor within 30 days after your estate goes into probate
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Not be your divorced or separated spouse or a spouse from your bigamous marriage
  • Not be illiterate, judged incapacitated by the court or otherwise found unsuitable by the court
  • Not have been convicted of a felony unless the felon’s citizenship has been restored through finishing the sentence or parole, or having been pardoned
  • Not have been convicted of your murder

Also, it’s easier to name an executor who lives in North Carolina. If your executor is a nonresident, they will need to appoint someone who lives in the state to act as their agent to accept legal papers for the estate.

What makes a good executor

The qualities of a good executor include attention to detail as well as experience working with financial professionals, lawyers and government officials.

It doesn’t help if your executor dies while in the process of managing your estate, so health is an attractive attribute.

Knowledge of and an appreciation for your family’s specific situation helps as well.

Honesty and good communication skills help, since your executor will have to communicate with everyone who has any claim to your estate and will likely be under some scrutiny.

If you are thinking about your estate but have yet to make final decisions, contact a qualified, experienced attorney to help you make sure your affairs are in order.