As you begin planning your estate or reviewing your existing estate plan, you have to think about who will fulfill your last wishes, secure your assets and manage your unhandled responsibilities. The executor of your estate will have to maintain and distribute your property while also settling all of your outstanding debts. A trustee would serve a similar role, although depending on the assets used to fund the trust, they may have a much longer-standing obligation than the executor of an estate.
Both roles involve trusting someone else with your legacy and with access to your financial resources. What characteristics should you prioritize when trying to choose an executor or trustee?
Responsibility and organization
If you have three children, and one of them consistently loses their job, struggles to maintain housing and can’t seem to make it to appointments on time, they probably aren’t the best choice to serve as executor or trustee even though they likely have the most free time of your children. You need someone who has shown that they are responsible and organized, as there will be many different deadlines and obligations for an executor or trustee to manage.
Trustworthiness and honesty
It would be very easy for an executor or trustee to misappropriate certain assets from an estate or a trust. They could embezzle for their own benefit, allow their close friends to profit from their position or let their relationships with beneficiaries influence how they manage asset distribution.
The best executors and trustees are individuals who have demonstrated that they are honest and have not abused positions of authority when they have helped them in the past.
Patience and availability
Sitting through hearings in probate court and waiting on hold as a utility company fully transfers you to the right party to move accounts into the estate’s name instead of the deceased individual’s name require a lot of patience.
Additionally, the person handling the estate will need to have free time, such as available paid time off at work, so that they can attend court hearings and fulfill other crucial estate or trust administration responsibilities. Living near the testator is also a crucial form of availability, as someone across the country made me all of the other criteria but would need to travel to fulfill their obligations completely.
Creating a list of viable candidates and considering them carefully can help you determine the best person to manage your legacy as you create your estate plan.