10 Characteristics Of A Successful Executor

One of the hardest decisions for a client is picking the right executor. Ian Hull and I discussed some of the key attributes an executor should possess boiled it down to 10:

1. Trust

A good place to start. If you don't trust that person, don't pick them.

2.Competence and Skill

a) Organization/Detail Oriented - The job of an executor requires a lot of organization and detail oriented skills.

b) Financial decision making - Depending on the assets, knowing when to sell and making other financial decisions can be crucial. On the other hand, investment decisions can be farmed out to professionals, so that shouldn’t necessarily rule out unsophisticated investors.

c) Communication - Being able to communicate effectively with the beneficiaries may avoid other problems.  

d) Judgment - Good judgment is important when making so many important decisions.

3. Personality

Are they arrogant or defensive?  Do they get along with people or do they rub them the wrong way?  Are the button-down or scattered?  Are they good with responsibility?

4. Shared Values

Hopefully, the executor will be someone on the same wavelength as the client and respect their wishes. "Who is going to stand in your shoes when you are gone?"

5. Age and Health

They have to be alive and healthy enough to do the job.

6. Willingness to accept the role

Just because they say they are willing now, doesn’t mean they will be willing when the time comes.

7. Impartiality

The client should resist choosing someone who is in a conflict of interest. Are they going to have to negotiate with themselves, such as a business partner who owns the other half of the business?

8. Residency, Citizenship & Proximity

Consider logistical issues for dealing with assets as well as foreign tax and reporting issues. If they live in another country or don't speak the same language, it makes dealing with the administration much more difficult.

9. Experience

Someone who has done it before (if you can find someone willing to be an executor more than once!) may make it easier. Doing anything the first time is a lot tougher than the second time around.

10. Relationship Dynamic with the Beneficiaries

Being an executor imposes power dynamics and money issues into the relationship between the executor and the beneficiaries.  For example, picking a child's aunt as the executor might change that relationship. No longer just the loving aunt and niece, it’s now executor and beneficiaries.  One thing you want to avoid is destroying an otherwise functioning and loving relationship.


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