Choose Your Executor Carefully

When you travel on an airplane, is it common for you to pick the pilot from among your friends and relatives? Dumb question right. Of course you do not. They might not know how. Who is the estate trustee, (executor) you have specified in your will? A friend or relative or someone who knows how?

Pilots are the pilot because they know how. No would-be pilots are permitted, at least on commercial flights. There is formal training, mandatory medicals and a requirement that the pilot be familiar with the particular equipment they are flying. Cessna 172 pilots do not get to fly a 767. Training and experience are both important.

Now about the executor question?

Up until recently I would have said if the estate is simple, like a bank account some investments with a registered advisor and perhaps some personal real estate, you cannot go far wrong. I would have been wrong.

A recent case in Ontario points out the error in assuming that simple estates are simple. Investment Executive reported on this recently and you can see it here. A Harsh Lesson for Potential Executors.  No good can come from this for either the heirs or the executor. Good only for the lawyers.  As one of my lawyer friends has said, “You cannot litigate in vain if the client pays.”

So, if your estate is simple, pick someone who might actually know how.  Like the pilot. Then tell them. Do not be surprised if they refuse. Many people know they are incompetent or unwilling. Better for you to find out now.

You can get an idea about what is involved here. Executor Duties. I doubt many people have ever thought this through.  If the executor you choose is smart they will rely on professional advice.  The rest will follow a flight plan of their own making.

Notice that executors have roles, duties and responsibilities. It is not a plumb political appointment.  It is work and care and caution. It is not without conflict. Many capable people will refuse to do it even in simple situations.

For those with non-simple estates. A professional executor will almost certainly be your best choice. They look like they are more expensive but that is just the price you are seeing.  A deeper look may show value exceeds the price. Consider this route before making any other decision.

A well-chosen executor can make a difficult time easier. Choose well because you won’t get a second try.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  don@moneyfyi.com  866-285-7772

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