How do you decide upon an executor? A series of skills competitions among friends and family? It’s slightly less exciting but I recommend review with a lawyer (what else would you expect?).
Here are some considerations, appreciating that no one consideration is determinative and there will be others. Each one will be weighed differently in your circumstances.
Pick an alternative. Someone should be appointed to act if your first choice is unable or unwilling.
Ability. An executor should be someone who is best suited and most trusted to administer your estate and carry out last wishes. The duties of an executor are significant: e.g., ascertaining, securing and converting assets; satisfying debts; addressing bequests; taxes; and distributing the estate. There may be people in your life who are better suited to this type of work than others.
Consider the age and health of your executor; appointing someone similar in age risks, as time goes on, that they too may be dead or incapable at the time of your death. Similarly, someone who is experiencing health or other adverse events may be less able or willing to act when the time comes.
Location. Out of province executors will typically need a bond. This can be a costly, time consuming process (e.g., application to insurance companies and minimum premiums regardless of the size of estate or length of administration). In practice, if an executor has to repeatedly travel great distances, it may be inconvenient for the executor, inefficient for administration or incur extra expenses.
Number. Multiples can provide some sense of check and balance for a testator but too many executors may be impractical. Consider whether executors will get along and what happens if they don’t. Some decisions might be better resolved by majority vote, others by unanimity. Absent a mechanism, executors who are required to act jointly may end up at an impasse, resolvable only by costly court proceedings.
Executor appointments, along with the rest of your will, should be reviewed from time to time since circumstances change (e.g., your executor could die before you, they could move, you could drift apart and while divorce will revoke an appointment of an ex-spouse, a separation does not).
Discuss the appointment with your executor. Is the person you choose prepared to accept the responsibility? Advance notice allows the executor to discuss your plans with you and obtain information that will facilitate administration.
The person you put in charge may be one of the last legal consequences of decisions made during your life time, so make that decision wisely.