Make Your Selection Carefully

Thank you to all who attended our Prime Time Basic Estate Planning seminar.  We had over 120 attendees…hopefully you all walked away with a greater understanding of the estate planning tools and the variety of strategies available.

An area that I would encourage all of you to take careful consideration on as you continue to develop your estate plan is who you designate to fill what is presumably the most “honorary” post of executor or personal representative (PR).

Unfortunately, many individuals leave an unrecognized weak point in their wills by naming friends, spouses, relatives or business associates as their personal representative.  It is an honorary position because of the utmost trust and diligence the personal representative must exemplify.  However, in many cases, it becomes burdensome for the individual selected because of the cumbersome and very timely process in estate settlement.

In reality, estate settlement involves a demanding, complex set of tasks – and the results, for better or worse, depend upon the experience, skills and judgment of those you designate to handle the job.

The PR you name in your will is responsible for safeguarding the assets of your estate, for paying proper debts, for contesting improper claims, for collecting sums owed the estate, and for filing estate and income tax returns.  Your PR must decide what to sell (and when) to pay taxes and estate expenses and what to hold for distribution to your beneficiaries or to trusts that you establish for their benefit.  And they must do all of this while continuing to manage their own day to day affairs.

In less complicated times, people relied on close relatives or friends to settle their estates.  Today, naming an inexperienced PR may be not only a weak point in your estate plan, but may also become a potentially costly mistake.  Here are some characteristics of an ideal PR:

  • Financially responsible
  • Unquestioned integrity and freedom from personal bias
  • Patience
  • Experience in caring for all types of assets
  • Informed investment judgment
  • Familiarity with tax issues that arise when an estate is settled
  • Immortality…at least prior to your demise

In many cases there is no friend or relative who holds all these characteristics.  For that reason, there are corporate fiduciaries that specialize in acting as personal representative.  I would encourage you to consider a corporate fiduciary listed at least as a backup to an individual you may select.  A corporate fiduciary tends to be more equipped to handle estate settlement and the cost is no greater than an inexperienced individual might be entitled to receive.

Again, please do not overlook the importance of this position.  A good time to discuss this is when you are sitting down with your estate planning attorney.  If we can help in any way, let us know.  We are here to help.

In the meantime, thanks again for attending our seminar.  Let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

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