Picking the right person to serve as personal representative or trustee can make all the difference in the world.  The wrong person can convert what should be an uncontested estate into a quagmire of never-ending litigation (see here).  The right person (or entity) can take a difficult situation and smoothly work through the issues with minimum fuss and expense to the benefit of all concerned.

Forbes on-line recently published Choose The Right Executor, which does a solid job of underscoring the importance of picking the right personal representative ("executor" if you live in the North East). Here’s an excerpt from the linked to piece:

Most people tend to choose a family member or a close friend to act as an executor and to administrate their wills upon their death. But because of the intricacies that go with the job, people must realize that the most competent person (not the closest in relation) should be chosen. As mentioned before, this does not mean that the chosen individual must do everything themselves. Executors are allowed to hire others to help with various aspects of the process (such as an accountant to help with the taxation portion).

With that in mind, if you don’t have a friend or a relative who you think can complete these duties in a satisfactory manner, don’t worry–attorneys, accountants and other professionals can act as an executor for a fee, usually derived from the deceased person’s estate. And while that fee may be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars (depending on the size of the estate and difficulties involved) it may be worthwhile, especially if it means that your family will receive their inheritance intact and on a timely basis.

The bottom line is that most people assume that being an executor is an easy task that can accomplished by anyone, but because the probate process is so involved and may entail interaction with tax and legal professionals, only an intelligent, dependable person should be named as executor.

Source: Death & Taxes Blog