Contrary to the gloomy opinion of many, the world is filled with trustworthy individuals. Of this large consortium, perhaps most upstanding and reliable of all is the fiduciary; a person legally appointed and authorized to hold assets in trust for another person. Although there are many types of fiduciaries, for all sorts of tricky life situations, we are going to focus on the type of fiduciary known as an estate executor (a person designated to carry out the directions of a will). Finding the right executor of your estate is indeed a tricky process. When considering who to appoint, you should first assess whether or not the person has enough time, skill, interest and patience to successfully carry out your last wishes. Time and again, a fiduciary is called upon to make decisions on the distribution of assets or make discretionary distributions for specific needs identified by the original owner. In making these decisions, the fiduciary must thoroughly understand the constraints outlined in the will and not just the request of the estate’s beneficiary.
In addition to the expertise that might be required for accounting to the beneficiaries or investing the assets, a knack for handling people is just as important. Being able to diffuse a heated dispute or discreetly investigate the nature of an unusual request for funds should be part of the fiduciary job description. While skills such as accounting and investing can easily be confirmed, social graces are sometimes hard to decipher. And, it goes without saying that you should be looking for a prudent person with the ability to act impartially, protect the assets and invest carefully. On a final note, please consider the potential liability you may be exposing someone to and that they know about this risk before they make a decision. Many people choose to elect a corporate (i.e. professional) trustee or co-trustee for this reason alone.