Your executor will be responsible for dealing with your probate estate (i.e., the assets passing under your will) after your death. An executor’s responsibilities include things like finding and inventorying your assets (including the ones in your basement or attic), dealing with the clerk of the court and the commissioner of accounts, filing tax returns, and hiring an attorney if necessary, among many other responsibilities.

State law imposes some limitations on who you can name, but the requirements vary by state. In Virginia, individuals have to be mentally competent adults, and business entities have to be licensed to do business in Virginia. Virginia does not require that you name a Virginia resident as your executor; however, an executor who is not a resident of Virginia may be required to post bond with surety (a surety bond is kind of like an insurance policy, and it has a cost). So, if you want to appoint a nonresident as your executor, you might consider appointing a resident to serve with him or her.

An executor has many responsibilities (most of which involve paperwork and money), faces many deadlines, may have to make judgment calls that will affect your beneficiaries’ lives, and will have to act shortly after your death.

Many people choose to name a friend or family member as executor. Spouses are a particularly popular choice.

There are advantages to naming a close friend of family member as your executor. Your friends and family members might be at least somewhat familiar with your assets and your wishes, which can make the job a little easier. Also, they might agree to do the work for less than a professional would charge.

On the other hand, friends and family are probably going to be very emotional after your death and might not be able to handle significant responsibilities at that time. Also, family members are not always impartial with other family members: your second spouse might not treat your kids fairly after you’re gone, or your child might not act impartially toward his or her siblings.

If you don’t have a suitable friend or family member, the alternative is to name a professional fiduciary, usually a lawyer, accountant, or trust company.

Always make sure the person you’re naming is okay with being named, and name at least one successor to serve if your first choice is unavailable.