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. In Virginia, individuals have to be mentally competent adults. Virginia does not require that executors be Virginia residents; however, nonresident executors are generally required to post bond with surety, unless they serve with a resident co-executor. (A surety bond is kind of like an insurance policy. The premiums are paid from your estate. Your executor will need to have decent credit to qualify.)
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. Some 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, e.g., a lawyer or accountant, or trust company.