If you die without naming an estate executor, a court will choose one for you. They would typically choose a family member according to a state-defined ranking. Yet they might not be the best person for the job.
If you want to ensure you secure the most appropriate executor, family or otherwise, you need to name them in your estate plan. You also need to get their approval and consider naming a back up too. Even if someone says yes now, they may have reason to opt out when the time comes.
Is it best to name a family member?
Not necessarily. Inheritance disputes can create serious family problems, so you might prefer to name someone who is neither family nor a beneficiary. The more impartial they seem, the less chance anyone accuses them of foul play.
Does the person need legal knowledge?
Most estate executors do not have any particular legal knowledge, so they need to learn as they go. You could sidestep that issue altogether by paying a professional to act as executor or choosing someone you know has performed the role before. Alternatively, the executor can seek legal help when the time comes.
Do they have to get on with everyone?
No, but they must be able and willing to communicate with all beneficiaries. Anyone who stands to inherit has a right to know how things are progressing. Timely communication can help allay fears that could arise if people do not understand how long things take.
Will they be available?
You cannot predict the future, but try to choose someone you think will still be alive and capable. If they are likely to remain in the area, that helps too.
Once you have chosen someone and have their agreement, seek legal help to document it correctly.