Choosing an executor and trustee can be a difficult decision to make. According to some financial planners, “Your estate plan is only as good as your executor or trustee.”
The person you select will be responsible for managing the trust for your beneficiaries and ensuring that your wishes are executed. To avoid mismanagement of your estate plan, consider these five qualities when choosing an executor or trustee:
1. Business or financial planning knowledge: While you do not need to select someone who has decades of experience as a financial planner, it helps when you choose someone with business experience or a financial background. Especially with high-asset estate plans, you want someone who is confident and knowledgeable about managing money in a trust. An understanding of taxes can also be beneficial.
2. No conflicts of interest: With high-asset estate plans, it is especially important you choose someone who would not favor one beneficiary over another or use the money for his or her own personal interest. If you think there might even be a small conflict of interest, you should consider choosing someone else.
3. Familiarity with family relationships: In the event that any disputes arise, it can be helpful to choose a trustee who understands the relationships between the beneficiaries. This person does not necessarily have to be in the family. In some cases, lifelong friends of a family have made excellent executors and trustees.
4. Manages his or her own money well: Generally, you want to choose an executor or trustee who is conservative with his or her own finances. If you do not think someone manages his or her own finances wisely, you likely do not want to choose that person to manage the trust.
5. Age and physical health: Unfortunately, many people select executors and trustees who pass away or become incapacitated before they can take over managing a trust. Especially in high-asset estate plans, it can be beneficial to select someone who is in good physical and mental health, as well as name a successor to the trustee or executor you choose.
Estate plans can be extremely complex. It can be beneficial to consult with an attorney who has substantial experience in high-asset estate planning with any questions that might arise.