Commentary: How to find an estate plan executor outside of your immediate family
Several weeks ago, we penned a column addressing some of the most frequently asked
questions about estate planning.
One of the questions we answered involved the traits you should look for when choosing an executor for your estate. There are three characteristics we believe you should look for when choosing the executor of your estate. It should be someone who has the capacity to carry out the needed tasks, is willing to serve in this role and is intimately familiar with your unique situations.
One of our readers wrote to us and asked us an excellent follow-up question: How do we find an executor if we don't know anyone who meets these three criteria? In other words, where can you turn to find an executor if there are no immediate solutions within your family or your close friends?
Ensure Every Asset Has a Beneficiary
Before we dive into the executor question, we wanted to emphasize the importance of taking the time to ensure that every asset that can have a designated beneficiary has one.
It's likely your assets that commonly have beneficiary designations, such as your retirement accounts and life insurance policies, already have a listed beneficiary. But if you have cash in a savings account—and we recommend everyone has at least three to six months of living expenses in liquid savings—the bank likely won't ask you if you want to have a beneficiary designation.
It's up to you to be proactive to request a payable on death form to designate to whom you want your assets to go . You also may be able to add a beneficiary to other assets you own, such as your home.
Taking the time to put these beneficiary designations on eligible assets will ultimately make the task of managing your affairs much easier on your executor. Just be sure that you regularly review your beneficiary designations; the name(s) listed will trump what's written in your will.
Finding an Individual to Serve as Executor
In our view, it's typically best to find an individual to serve as your executor. If there are no immediately obvious people who you think would be a good fit, think outside of the box. Do you have any grandchildren who could do it? If your close circle of friends is older, do any of them have kids that would be able to carry out the tasks of executor?
What we've found is that people are typically more than willing to help out if they're approached. Be open to reaching out to folks that have a good head on their shoulders and have familiarity with your wishes, even if they're not a member of your immediate family.
Alternatives to Working with an Individual
If finding an individual that you trust and that is willing to serve as an executor for you simply isn't possible, then you can look at hiring a third party to serve as the executor of your estate.
While your financial advisor likely won't be able to serve as the executor of your estate (this is viewed as a conflict of interest), you may be able to find an experienced estate planning attorney. Other alternatives include your local bank or a trust company.
Ultimately, whether you're able to find an individual or you opt to work with a third party to serve as your executor, it's important to review the details of your financial plan and outline where your important financial documents and information are located. That will make settling your affairs an easier task and, ultimately, help ease the workload that you entrust to your executor.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended
to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.