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Consider Carefully Before Accepting Appointment as Executor or Trustee

Most people like to feel important and receive some kind of recognition of their importance from family, at some level. Within families, there are various ways this recognition cane come: a request to be a best man or maid of honor; a guardian; a godparent; a caregiver for an aging parent; and so on. Within the estate planning world, this recognition can come with being asked to serve as an executor of an estate or as the trustee of a trust.

 Being asked to serve as an executor in the probate process or as a trustee is an honor—it means you have been recognized as a trusted and competent individual. But with this honor comes responsibility. It is important for those who have been asked to serve in these capacities to discern whether they are the right person for the job. What types of things should be considered in making this determination? Let’s look at a few.

One thing to consider is whether you have the time to do the job. Bringing an estate to a close usually takes a minimum of nine months, and often longer. At certain point along the way, it may be necessary for the executor to put aside their job to attend to their executorial duties. While serving as the trustee of a trust may not have the same periodically intense demands on time—depending on the assets being dealt with—it does require time commitment to properly fulfill fiduciary duties.

Another important issue is whether you possess the skills necessary for acting as an executor or trustee. It is important to mention that executors and trustee certain can obtain professional help—whether from attorneys, CPA, or financial planners—in carrying out their duties. They cannot, however, delegate out their fiduciary duties in these roles, however.

Equally important is whether you are able to navigate the family dynamics that could come up in your role as executor or trustee. These dynamics will be different for every family. Sometimes a good deal of conflict can come up for fiduciaries, and they have to be able to carry out their duties regardless of criticism. At the same time, it is good if they are able to be sensitive enough to address concerns in a way consistent with their legal duties.

Those who have been asked to serve in a fiduciary role, but are unsure whether they should accept the role, may wish to consult an estate planning attorney to get more information about the duties the position entails.

Source: CBS Money Watch, “Are you ready to be an executor?,” Ray Martin, June 7, 2013. Tags: executor, estate administration