Law & Justice

How to Choose an Executor of Your Will

The decision of who you should select as the executor of your last will and testament, trustee of any trust you create, or as the agent under your power of attorney (POA) is a difficult task and one that involves the consideration of numerous factors.

The one factor that should always be front and center is the trustworthiness of the individual to be selected. Whether you are selecting an executor, trustee, or agent, the selected person should, if possible, be someone that you know very well and someone who you find to be trustworthy and honest.

Generally, this is not a difficult choice for married couples who have children and/or adult grandchildren. It is not uncommon for couples to select their spouse as an executor, trustee (where appropriate), or agent under a POA and with their children as the alternate or successor.

Sign Up for E-News

I often recommend that if a child is to be selected as a successor executor, trustee, or agent under POA (and you have more than one child), it is wise to select two children (if possible) to create an inherent system of checks and balances. This would avoid the possibility of one person being vested with too much power and authority. It promotes decisions being made after a discussion with the other executor, trustee, or agent, and after consensus is achieved. This is particularly important with respect to agents under a POA wherein the selected agent(s) in many instances is given great financial powers including the power to gift assets to himself, herself and/or others.

Once the trustworthiness hurdle is met, the next most important factor is the business, financial, and legal acumen of the individual to be selected. As the role of executor, trustee, and/or agent often involves the oversight, investment and management of stocks, bonds, cash, and real estate, it is extremely helpful if the individual selected has experience managing money and assets. Perhaps, a child that has filed bankruptcy or is a penniless artist sleeping on a friend’s couch may not be the appropriate choice.

While the executor, trustee, and/or agent under a POA will generally retain an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA) and/or financial professionals (investment advisors) to assist and guide them, having an individual(s) who has personal knowledge and experience in financial and legal matters is invaluable.  It is not unusual for a client when deciding between one child and another to be very concerned about hurting the feelings of a child by not selecting him or her, even though that child may be older than the child who would be the logical choice because of his or her knowledge and experience. If offending and/or hurting a child’s feelings is an important issue, then perhaps selecting co-executors, co-trustees and co-agents under a POA will be the solution. Selecting wisely rather than with emotion is of paramount importance.

Another important factor is the age and health of the individual selected. While it is important to select someone who is mature, financially savvy and experienced, selecting someone who is unlikely to survive your death and/or incapacity, or be unable to act due to their own ailments is not wise.

For individuals who do not have a spouse, children and/or adult grandchildren, the same factors need to be considered, but, the choice in many instances will be between choosing a sibling, niece, nephew, cousins, friends, trusted legal professional, tax professional (accountant) and/or a bank or financial institution that would assume the necessary role.

One additional factor worthy of consideration is whether the selected executor, trustee, or agent is also an individual who will be inheriting assets under your last will and/or trust. Often selecting one or two of these family members who have a vested interest in the estate and/or trust is a safe bet if they satisfy the previously stated factors.

In conclusion, giving thoughtful consideration as to who you are going to select is advisable. One of the first estates I ever worked on involved a multi-millionaire business man who made the mistake of selecting seven executors and trustees who unfortunately disliked each other, leading to years of litigation.

Anthony Enea, Esq. is a member of Enea, Scanlan & Sirignano, LLP, with offices in White Plains and Somers. He can be reached at 914-948-1500. He is a past chair of the elder law section of NYSBA and past president and founding member of the New York chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He practices exclusively in elder law, wills, trusts and estates and guardianship proceedings.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Yorktown

An 'Air of Hypocrisy' at Town Hall

February 22, 2018

There is an air of hypocrisy blowing over Yorktown and it is coming from town hall. Over the past couple of weeks, I questioned the “temporary” hiring of the Oxman Law Group as legal counsel to Yorktown in a purported “interim” capacity. I have had comments of support and comments questioning my motivation. Rather than have people guess, I would like to be ...

The DACA Dilemma and the Trick of the Trickle-Down Theory

Here is our very own Sen. Charles Schumer on the Senate floor last week: “President Trump has stood in the way of a bipartisan solution to DACA, a problem he created in the first place, and yet the president is in this dream world. He thinks, ‘Oh, I can blame Democrats for the impasse.’ As I said, only in the 1984 world where up is down and black is white could this be true.

A Gold Medal for Jerry

Time advances at a relentless pace. It seems like life moves as though through a movie projector operating at triple speed. As Virgil commented, “It flies never to be regained.” We desperately try to slow its unyielding march by celebrating milestones: birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, weddings, etc. The hope is that we can somehow slow the process, take a breath and enjoy the ...

I Love 'I Hate Hamlet'

Let’s face it, folks. Not everyone loves Shakespeare. Not even all actors. Andrew Rally is one of them. In fact, where there’s a Will, there’s a way Andrew will find to avoid acting in one of those famously timeless plays. And for good reason. Shakespeare tests, to the fullest, an actor’s mettle, and Andrew is strictly a TV actor.

He has just ended a star turn in the ...

I Am Woman, Hair Me Roar

When you have short hair, it is inevitable that you will spend an inordinate amount of time growing your hair out and then getting fed up and cutting it again. I have been down this hair-brained road several dozen times before, complaining for months until I am convinced my husband is going to cut it all off while I sleep just so he doesn’t have to listen to me whine about it one more ...

Should Valentine's Day Be Celebrated at School?

Dear Dr. Linda,

I’ve been a third-grade teacher for over 20 years and have never allowed my students to celebrate Valentine’s Day in my class. I know my colleagues think I’m mean, but I’m refusing to celebrate it for many reasons.

1) Children hand out cards to each other and there’s always some child left out or who gets very few; 2) Children are always asked ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, February 25, 10:30 AM

Yorktown Heights

Kids Hamantash Bake

Religions And Spirituality

Mon, February 26, 7:00 PM

Yorktown Heights

Robert Kesten to speak on Property Taxes & ...

Government

Mon, February 26, 7:00 PM

Westchester Collaborative Theater, Ossining

WCT Scene/Monologue Study Open For Enrollment Now

Arts & Entertainment Education Other

Red Cross blood shortage prompts urgent call for blood and platelet donations during National Blood Donor Month

February 23, 2018

This January, National Blood Donor Month, the American Red Cross has an urgent need for blood and platelet donors of all blood types to make an appointment to give now and help address a winter blood donation shortage.

Severe winter weather has had a tremendous impact on blood donations already this year, with more than 150 blood drives forced to cancel causing over 5,500 blood and platelet ...