Retirement & Financial Planning Report

An executor assumes a fiduciary responsibility that may be better left to an institution. Image: William Potter/

When you draft your will, you should name an executor. It will be up to your executor to handle all the paperwork after your death and the distribution of your assets.

One possibility is to name an independent party as your estate’s executor. A bank trust department might serve, or perhaps an independent trust company.

Your heirs may not appreciate paying fees to an executor. However, if you name a surviving relative as executor, that person may face enormous pressure from heirs with competing claims. Family disputes might erupt.

What’s more, an executor assumes a fiduciary responsibility that may be better left to an institution. An executor must file an estate tax return, pay any estate tax due, and distribute the estate’s assets.

If the tax return is later audited and more tax is due, the executor is legally responsible; other heirs may not be willing to give some of their money back to pay the tax. When you name an institution you shift that liability away from a family member.

On the other hand, if you don’t expect any tax or family problems with your estate, you can name a family member as executor. A surviving spouse may be too overwhelmed to deal with everything but a grown son or daughter who is conscientious and lives nearby might be a good choice. In any case, your will should name a backup executor.

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