Here’s how to pick the executor of your estate. It may not be the person you think.

Let’s say your oldest daughter is a strong-willed and successful accountant, and your son is a high school teacher who is good at managing money and being the family’s peacekeeper. You’re almost done with your estate planning but unsure about which of your children to choose to be the executor of your estate, and you don’t want to cause ill will between them.

Before you decide who to choose, consider the following advice when it comes to choosing an executor:

Success often means nothing. Just because someone is a financial professional, even an accountant, doesn’t mean that person will be a great executor of your estate – like in cases of a good doctor being a difficult patient or good lawyers being unsuited to represent themselves. People can be great at their jobs and careers but then be terrible when it comes to managing their and your personal affairs.

The executor will be responsible for identifying assets, determining if there are debts that need to be paid, and taking care of any tax liabilities – which are things that could take at least a few years to complete. Because of this, you should consider which adult child or relative has the patience to be able to handle this. Taking care of people’s debts and assets is challenging, especially when real estate is involved.

“Dealing with the death of a parent is challenging, but selling their home can be fraught with land mines, particularly if they die without a will,” Pamela Babcock wrote for The Washington Post. “Family members consumed by grief may be unable to make decisions, [letting] homes that may have already languished fall further into disrepair. How children handle the sale of a parent’s home is often key to whether they end up staying a family or never speaking to each other again.”

Age is just a number. The eldest adult child is typically the one chosen to be executor by many parents, but that child may not be able to handle the often tedious, time-consuming, and complicated task of settling an estate. Maturity isn’t necessarily an inherent trait of being the firstborn. Although it may seem the most fair to choose your firstborn to be the executor of the estate, it isn’t always the wisest.

Harmony matters, too. Someone who is great at managing money might still be awful when it comes to dealing with people, which is also a crucial part of settling an estate. If possible, choose an executor who will try to keep the peace and not antagonize your heirs or their siblings, especially if your children don’t get along well already.

One of the important reasons to have a will and carefully plan the distribution of your assets is to minimize — as best you can — the emotional and financial chaos after you die. When people select the wrong executor, they often leave behind a mess, at times leading to lawsuits and legal fees that consume much of the money you had hoped to leave to your heirs.

For help estate planning and choosing the executor of your estate, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC, 708-482-7090 or