When you develop your estate plan, one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is who will be your executor or trustee. The term can vary based on the type of estate plan you have. However, this is the person who will help ensure that your wishes are carried out as you’ve detailed and handle a number of administrative, financial, logistical and legal responsibilities.
It may be tempting to choose your closest relative or a trusted friend. That may be a good choice, but it’s essential to understand what qualities this person needs to have. Choose someone who can handle the job responsibly and is willing to do it. In fact, naming a relative may only cause conflicts with other family members when it comes time to administer the estate.
Common sense may be more important than expertise. You don’t have to choose someone who is a financial or business genius. Executors and trustees can call in experts if and when they need them. As one estate planning attorney notes, “You need someone with good, basic business sense….” If that person will be managing funds in a trust, you likely want someone who will be conservative.
It may be tempting to name a corporate trustee. However, estate planning attorneys often advise against that unless there’s no one else to handle the job. There can be hefty fees involved. Further, corporate trustees don’t know you. They answer to their companies, so they may put concern over liability ahead of what you would have wanted.
It’s essential to choose someone who will likely outlive you. Of course, life holds no certainties. However, you probably don’t want to name someone considerably older than yourself.
Further, no matter whom you designate, you may need to amend your estate plan if that person’s situation changes. If your designated executor or trustee develops a serious illness or disability, moves across the country or becomes estranged from you or your family (as often happens after divorce), you’ll want to designate someone else.
If you need help choosing an executor or trustee, your Arizona estate planning attorney can provide important guidance. Your attorney can also answer questions for the person you wish to choose to help that person decide whether this responsibility is one that he or she wants to accept.
Source: American Association for Retired Persons, “Choose the Right Executor or Trustee,” G.M. Filisk, accessed Dec. 27, 2017