Who should be my executor (personal representative) or trustee?


Well, this is the second most frequent question I’m asked. Who should serve as my executor? Who should serve as my personal representative? Who should serve as my successor trustee? In my practice, I spend a lot of time with my clients talking this over. Well, let’s remember what we’re doing. We’re hiring someone to manage our estate for us when we’re unable to do it. So first of all, we need someone who is trustworthy, someone who can follow directions, someone who will follow directions and instructions as contained in our estate planning documents, someone who has some modicum of ability with financial matters, but also displays good sense when they’re called upon to make decisions on their own.

In my experience, as I tell my clients, I’ve rarely met one individual who possesses all those requisite qualities, including attorneys, including CPAs, including other professionals, and well-accomplished children. Now, people always want to name their kids as successor trustees. That makes sense. But there’s nothing that says that one person has to be the successor trustee. We could have a team of successor trustees. We could put two people together and utilize the qualities and strengths that both have, and avoid the weaknesses that both have, and get a better result.

Note: The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 signed into law in December 2017 increased the exemption amounts mentioned in these videos. The personal estate, gift, and generation-skipping tax lifetime exemption was increased to $11.18 million per person. The annual gift tax exclusion was increased to $15,000 per donee per year.

Both amounts are indexed for inflation and may increase year over year until December 31, 2025, when the law sunsets and reverts to 2017 values