Q&A: Can You Be My Executor?

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Estate planning is an important aspect of comprehensive financial planning. Without an estate plan, it is likely your assets will get divided in an undesirable way. Having an estate attorney you don’t enjoy working with can also cause the same problems.

The whole estate process is both terribly difficult and miserably necessary.

As a part of our estate planning service to clients, we read estate plans to assess overall fit with the client’s long-term financial plan and proper implementation across known assets. If you aren’t sure how you want to leave your assets, we can also help discern what your estate planning objectives really are and some basic implementation ideas to take to the estate attorney.

One of the hard things our clients struggle with is who to nominate their executor. The executor is the temporary owner of your probated assets until the disbursement process is complete. They have the authority to reimburse themselves, allocate funds between the heirs, and go as slowly or quickly through the estate process as they choose. Being an executor is a difficult, mostly thankless job, often compounded by grief. That is why it is an estate attorney joke that you should nominate your worst enemy. Surrounded by loved ones they don’t want to burden with this job, it is no wonder our clients often turn to us to see if we can accept this role and be the executor of our client’s estates.

Sadly, we have to say no.

Being the executor of an estate means having custody of the assets and we strongly recommend that clients not allow their financial advisor to have custody of their assets in anything but the limited ability to make trades on your behalf, move money between your accounts, and take out a fee.

In fact, we insist on not maintaining custody of the assets we manage and always house client assets at a qualified custodian, often Charles Schwab. This is one way we protect our clients and also ourselves from even the appearance of impropriety.

Even though we won’t be your executor, we are still here to help your executor, trustee, and loved ones through the estate maintenance and settlement process.

When we accept a client, we see the relationship as a lifetime partnership and are committed to helping widows and widowers through the worst of times. Even after the surviving spouse dies, we make ourselves available to the surviving family in aiding with the estate settlement if they desire our services.

This service is significantly valuable as it gives your heirs a trustworthy advisor who is sitting on their side of the table through this difficult process.

The death of a spouse or family member is a vulnerable time and going through the estate process with unfamiliar professionals is scary and isolating. The foresight of establishing a relationship with a trustworthy fee-only advisor can provide a vital link of financial continuity.

Photo used here under Unsplash Creative Commons Zero.

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Chief Operating Officer, CFP®, APMA®

Megan Russell has worked with Marotta Wealth Management most of her life. She loves to find ways to make the complexities of financial planning accessible to everyone. She is the author of over 800 financial articles and is known for her expertise on tax planning.