I encourage everyone to see estate planning not as a chore but a privilege. You get to choose who you want as your estate executor, and you have to make a will. Otherwise, you have no say on who will handle your affairs when you’re gone. Let me give you some tips on choosing the right executor.
Your executor’s authority comes from your will. Executors answer to your beneficiaries and to the courts. You need to choose wisely because an abusive or dishonest executor can ruin your legacy. Not to mention that they can rob your beneficiaries.
Is there a Golden Rule for choosing executors?
I would say yes.
Family always comes first.
There is a simple reason for that. Family are likely included in your will as your beneficiaries. This should encourage family to act as economical and efficient administrators. They also usually know how to deal with relatives.
Hopefully, they can avoid stumbling upon hornets nests that strangers would not see.
False assumptions about choosing executors
These are many. Here are a few that you should avoid making:
• It is not mandatory to choose your firstborn child.
• You do not have to choose your closest living relative.
• It is not best to automatically choose a lawyer or business partner.
Some of these choices may be good ones to make. However, you must consider your reasoning. There is no one choice that is automatically good for everyone. It really is a personal choice.
I find many clients have difficulty deciding who should be their attorney or executor. Often this is the reason they postpone signing their wills. They are afraid of making mistakes, and I can’t blame them really.
Removing an executor is a costly and difficult process
You need to be careful who you select for the job. I have a new post today about how painful it is to remove executors in court. Check out my blog at Mrwills.com.
You must consider what tasks your executor needs to handle. It’s not likely that you’ll find an executor with experience.
Do you have these executor needs?
• Special assets that need to be maintained or sold, like a rental property or business?
• Will your executor possibly be a business partner with a conflict of interest?
• Do you need someone to maintain a long-term trust for your children or incapable spouse?
• Do you expect someone to be able to deal with dysfunctional members of your family?
• Is a professional needed to wind up your practice like a doctor, accountant or lawyer?
You should always consider having a backup executor included in your will. This is just in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to do the job.
In choosing your executor, age and location are key. There is no point in choosing your parents to be your executor if they are in their 70s and living in another province or country.
Ask your lawyer for advice but don’t do these things:
• Rush your decision to get on with making a will.
• Forget to look at other alternatives.
• Fail to evaluate other possible choices, including family, professional or a trust company.
Are you still stuck?
I have an eBook to help you. I created an executor scorecard to evaluate all your choices. It will help take the stress out of finding the right person for the executor job.
About Edward Olkovich
Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu. Visit his website, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information.
© Edward Olkovich 2013