Choosing your executor: Who do you trust?

One of the issues that comes up often in my practice is how to choose an executor. People usually turn to trusted friends or family members to take on this responsibility, but sometimes people don’t have someone they trust or those they do trust are unsuitable (or unwilling) to be an executor.
Choosing your executor: who do you trust?

It can be a demanding role and I have seen numerous people who were an executor in the past refuse the role a second time around. While this can be challenging, there are options available to ensure your final wishes are carried out faithfully.

Picking Someone you Trust

When choosing an executor, the most important thing is trust. Can you trust that individual to do what you ask and ensure that your wishes are complied with? The second most important thing is if that individual is able to deal with the financial and legal issues. Not everyone, even the most trustworthy person, is suited to be an executor if they are not able to deal with the forms and finances that are involved. Most people will look to a spouse, an adult child or a close friend who they can both trust and who can handle the role of executor.

Seeking Help from Professional Executors

If you’re unable to identify someone from your personal circle whom you trust as an executor, turning to professionals can be a viable solution. Estate attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, and even trust companies can act as executors. Professionals will charge for their services, however, and sometimes they will refuse to serve altogether if you have insufficient assets. If you are at all worried about a contentious will, however, a professional can be the best choice, because they bring expertise, impartiality, and accountability to the role which can help diffuse an otherwise tense situation. 

Speak to the Person you Choose

It can be a good idea to speak with your potential executor to ensure that they are willing to be executor and that they understand what you are looking to do with your estate. Clearly outline your expectations, wishes, and any unique circumstances in your will. By providing comprehensive instructions, you can minimize the risk of misunderstandings and ensure your wishes are accurately executed. This applies regardless of whether you are appointing someone from your personal life or a professional and this due diligence can provide you with a clearer picture of who would be the best fit for the executor role.

Joint Executors 

Another option is to appoint joint executors. You can do this if you are appointing two family members or a friend and a family member. It has the advantage of both individuals having visibility over what is happening with your estate, though there can be additional administrative tasks to ensure both people are consenting to what happens. Alternatively, you could appoint both a professional and a personal executor to work together, though not every professional will consent to such an arrangement. Sometimes, the professional executor can handle the legal and financial intricacies, while the personal executor ensures that your personal wishes and sentiments are upheld. This way, you have a system of checks and balances in place.

Safeguard with Alternate Executors

Usually, we will recommend that people appoint at least one alternate executor. Things happen, people get sick or pass away, and having an alternate executor appointed, can reduce the chances of someone you don’t want as an executor applying to administer your estate. Age can also be a factor here as you want your will to work for you for the foreseeable future and if your executor(s) are all older the chances of old age or illness preventing them from being your executor increases.

Maintain an Updated Will

Whichever route you choose, it’s crucial to keep your will updated. Life circumstances change, and your initial choice of executor might need to be revised over time. Regularly review and update your will to ensure that your executor remains the most appropriate person for the role.

In Conclusion

While it might be challenging to settle on an executor, it’s not an insurmountable task. By exploring the options of professional executors, conducting interviews and background checks, maintaining clear communication, considering joint executors, seeking advice from trusted advisors, and keeping your will up to date, you can navigate this decision with confidence. Remember, the goal is to ensure your final wishes are fulfilled, and there are ways to achieve this even when trust is scarce in your personal life.

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Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice. Consult with qualified professionals to create a personalized estate plan suitable for your specific circumstances.

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