The Dubious Honor of Serving as Executor

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I recently heard from a former client who wanted to reengage our services. Naturally, I asked her why. "I was named the executor of my father’s estate last year, and I now have a huge appreciation for what you do."

Whether one is named as the executor or personal representative in a will or the trustee or successor trustee for a trust, being chosen to carry out someone's last wishes can be viewed as a high compliment. The person writing the will – the testator – often selects a person they trust and believe to be competent to handle their affairs. This is most commonly a family member, usually a child.

The person selected often feels so honored to be named that the response is almost always a gracious agreement. Sometimes, there is no request. The executor is simply named in the will and might be told at a future date, or even worse, upon the death of the person.

In most cases, neither party understands the huge time commitment, complexity, and liability that being an executor entails. It’s possible that, if both did, fewer people would be asked and even fewer would accept the job.