My name is Mark Goodfield. Welcome to The Blunt Bean Counter ™, a blog that shares my thoughts on income taxes, finance and the psychology of money. I am a Chartered Professional Accountant and a partner with a National Accounting Firm in Toronto. This blog is meant for everyone, but in particular for high net worth individuals and owners of private corporations. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are written solely in my personal capacity and cannot be attributed to the accounting firm with which I am affiliated. My posts are blunt, opinionated and even have a twist of humor/sarcasm. You've been warned. Please note the blog posts are time sensitive and subject to changes in legislation or law.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Speak to your Executor-surprise only works for birthday parties, not death

In my blog series on being named an executor (So you want to be an executor, You have been named an executor, now what? and Is a corporate executor the right choice?) I discussed many of the issues an executor may face. In the second blog noted above, I talked about the overwhelming responsibility one assumes upon being named an executor and the obligation I feel you have, to discuss a person’s appointment as executor of your will, with them. In today’s blog I want to expand on this topic further.

I have dealt with numerous estates where the executor(s) floundered, notwithstanding the fact they were provided direction. Where an executor(s) flounders or spins their wheels, the ultimate beneficiaries suffer in two ways: (1) Their financial entitlement is often delayed months if not years, and (2) that entitlement may be reduced because of poor investment decisions or non-decisions made by the executor.

Where an executor is in over their head, I place the blame solely upon the deceased. Many people do not take the proper amount of time to consider the personal characteristics of the executor(s) they have selected. What I consider most objectionable is that many people never provide the executor(s) with the courtesy of notice of their potential appointment. In addition, many do not even attempt to meet with their executors to discuss their potential duties and whether they feel comfortable being named as an executor. Jim Yih discusses the characteristics he suggest you consider in an executor is this blog

As noted above, I consider the personal characteristics of a potential executor to be of the utmost of importance. I would suggest a potential executor should (1) have some financial acumen, (2) not stress easily, and (3) be somewhat anal.

At the risk of stereotyping, I have been involved with a couple executors who were more artistic than financial in nature and they were overwhelmed with the position. In my opinion, the reason they were overwhelmed was that their personal characteristics were the complete polar opposite of those characteristics I recommend an executor(s) possess. Years ago I had a very high strung person named as the executor of an estate and they essentially shut down for over a year due to the stress of the job and the estate sat in limbo.

This is not to suggest that an artistic person cannot be an executor or a co-executor with a financial person, but I would suggest that before naming such a person, you sit down and explain the duties of an executor to ensure that they feel they can handle the job.

In many cases, people name their children as executors. I have no problem with doing such; however, you must look at each child’s personal characteristics and the sibling dynamic to determine whether they can handle the job as a group or whether you have to name only one or two of your children as executors. I think many people would name executors from outside the family if the potential executor fees did not approach up to 5% of the estate; however, in some cases, paying the executor fee is worth the independence gained by having an arms length person administer the estate, despite the associated fees. 

I have observed so many executors who were in over their heads, that I am now considering offering my services as an executor, or some kind of executor assistance to my clients, but I digress.

The take away from today’s blog is: (1) you must seriously consider your selection of an executor and their personal characteristics and (2) once you have made your selection, I would strongly suggest you discuss their appointment with them.

The blogs posted on The Blunt Bean Counter provide information of a general nature. These posts should not be considered specific advice; as each reader's personal financial situation is unique and fact specific. Please contact a professional advisor prior to implementing or acting upon any of the information contained in one of the blogs.