Why choosing the right executor is critical when planning your will

Stock image | Photo by Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — We have all heard a horror story – or two – about an executor who made life miserable for the heirs. If a movie were made about an executor gone bad, the tagline might read: “Executor Spites Sister by Withholding Money,” “Executor Hides the Will,” “Executor Acts All-Powerful” or “Executor Ghosts Family.”  

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simpson33/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

At Brindley Sullivan, we know that the best quality in an executor is a willingness to freely communicate, followed closely by sweaty-browed perseverance.

Most problems with an executor are solved with a little communication by the executor. An heir’s suspicions usually fall away with a quick update from the executor, and a simple explanation can kill discontent that may build when things are quiet too long. 

Keeping heirs informed is the balm of Gilead when it comes to handling an estate. An  executor should be an open book as often as possible. When choosing an executor, you must keep the willingness to communicate of that person at the forefront.  

Perseverance is the other critical attribute for your executor. They will spend many boring but important hours dealing with financial records, sorting through payments and completing forms. Imagine working with the Division of Motor Vehicles (sorry for the bad rap, DMV) for six to 12 months trying to get things done.

And while keeping all those administrative balls in the air, they also have to keep the expectations of the heirs balanced like the spinning plates on poles by a circus performer. That is the life of the executor until administration is complete.  

Attorney M. Sean Sullivan | Photo courtesy of Brindley Sullivan, St. George News

Usually one family member is chosen to act as the executor. That certainly is the most popular option, but it’s not always the best choice for a situation. Sometimes co-executors make sense. Having co-executors reduces the likelihood of abuse or bad judgment, which in turn helps all of the heirs have more confidence that things are being done correctly. 

Having co-executors also provides an opportunity to combine the personal touch of a family member with the expertise and objective judgment of a professional executor. For example, you might name a child to act with your CPA with a sizable estate or if there are complex family matters that might need some outside perspective to handle properly.  

Deciding who your executor is to be is a major decision that should not be taken lightly. You should consult an experienced estate planning attorney about your family and assets before making that decision. 

Written by M. SEAN SULLIVAN, a founding partner at Brindley Sullivan.

About M. Sean Sullivan

M. Sean Sullivan is an attorney with 22 years of experience in will, trust and estate planning law, and he has worked with clients from all parts of the United States. His office offers free initial consultations at your convenience, which can be requested online or by calling 435-673-9220.

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  • Brindley Sullivan | Address: 50 E. 100 South Suite 302, St. George | Telephone: 435-673-9220 | Website.

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