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Charleston Estate Planning & Asset Protection Blog

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Top 5 Characteristics of a Great Trustee or Executor

Congratulations! You are setting up your will or trust to make sure your loved ones get the assets you want to give them one day when you pass on. You put a lot of thought into who will receive which items, but you still have a critical decision ahead. No matter how well thought-out your estate plan is, if you make a poor choice of the person who will administer your estate, your lovely intentions could all be for nothing. To help you in making your selection, talk with an experienced wills and trusts lawyer. In the meantime, here are the top 5 characteristics of a great trustee or executor:

1. Integrity. Choose someone who will carry out your wishes when you are no longer there to oversee his or her behavior. Unfortunately, lawyers frequently hear anecdotal accounts of people who ripped off the people they were supposed to safeguard. The executor or trustee diverts money or other assets to himself or his children instead of the beneficiaries named in the will or trust agreement.

Think long and hard about the ethics of whomever you are considering, because you will not be there to force them to be honest in the performance of their duties. The issue of integrity is one reason that many people opt for having two co-trustees or co-executors, with one being a friend or relative and the other being a professional, such as the trust department of a bank.

2. Intelligence. You should select someone who is smart enough to handle at least some of the duties and wise enough to know when they should hire an expert, such as an accountant or a lawyer, to take on certain tasks. You do not need a genius to serve as your trustee or executor, but you want someone whose ego will not get in the way of doing what is best for your beneficiaries. Your designer should have the humility to ask for advice when appropriate but the backbone to make the difficult decisions.

3. Common sense. The best trustee or executor does not plunge into the latest investment fads. Instead, your best candidate will research the options, ask for advice, and take the time to mull over the alternatives before making a decision that impacts your estate. You do not want someone who will do something impulsive or reckless, like selling all of your estate’s assets and investing everything into Bitcoin.

4. Longevity. Your Uncle Harry might be a financial whiz, but if he is already 70 years old, he is not a good choice as the trustee of the trust that you set up for the benefit of your preschoolers. You should select someone who will still be around and at the top of their game for a long time. Since you want your trustee to outlive you, your parents and even your siblings are not viable candidates.

5. Team player. Your trustee or executor will have to walk a tightrope with your beneficiaries, so choose someone who does not stir up drama or conflict. The person you name will also have to work with various professionals to fulfill your wishes, so he or she should have the “soft skills” to perform well in business settings.

A final note: you should revisit your estate planning documents every few years or when there is a significant life event, such as a marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child. At that time, you should also evaluate whether your trustee or executor is still a wise choice. Schedule a consult with one of our South Carolina will and trust lawyers to ensure your specific estate goals are legally sound and prepared to be carried out.

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Wiles Law Firm, LLC helps clients with their estate planning needs in Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding areas such as West Ashley, Summerville, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and John's Island.

Information on this website is not legal advice. Further, viewing of the enclosed information does not create an attorney-client relationship with Wiles Law Firm, LLC. Matters will be handled by attorneys who primarily practice out of our office in Charleston County located at 852 Lowcountry Blvd., Ste. 101, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464. M. Emerson Wiles, III is the attorney responsible for this advertisement.

Any result Wiles Law Firm, LLC may achieve on behalf of one client in one particular matter does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients. Please contact a South Carolina estate planning attorney or one of our attorneys with Wiles Law Firm, LLC for a consultation regarding your unique estate plan.

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