Tax & Estate Planning
Helping clients select an executor, with Stacey Delich-Gould and Anne Gifford Ewing


When it comes to estate planning, advisors naturally spend time helping clients think through their legacies and how they’d like to share their estates. But it’s the client’s executor (or trustee) who’s charged with making sure those wishes become reality. That’s why it makes sense to speak to clients about this role and share important considerations and guidance that can help clients make the best decision for the role. Too often, clients make this choice using a single variable: Whom do they trust?

Stacey Delich-Gould and Anne Gifford Ewing, trust and estate specialists at Capital Group’s Private Client Services, share insight on factors clients should consider when appointing an executor or trustee, and ideas on how advisors can help clients prepare their fiduciaries for the role.

A critical choice

Clients understandably tend to focus more on the details of their gift plans, such as who’s going to inherit money, property or possessions. But they shouldn’t forget that they will need a capable proxy to make sure those wishes are carried out. “You can have the best-drafted document in the world that had a lot of care go into it, but if you don't have a fiduciary who is going to be able to carry out those provisions and do it well, you're nowhere,” Ewing says.

Not only can advisors help clients evaluate candidates, but they can also help facilitate what can sometimes be awkward conversations between the client and their fiduciary. “There’s a lot of risk, and there’s a lot of responsibility” for executors, Delich-Gould says. “So, if advisors can make those conversations happen, it’s incredibly valuable.”

Factors to consider in choosing an executor

Of course, clients want to appoint someone they trust in this position. But they should also look more deeply into whether that person will actually be able to carry out the role. For example, age is a factor. Clients may understandably choose a peer to serve as an executor or trustee. But as they age, those fiduciaries are getting older, too, and may not have the ability to fulfill these duties.

Clients also sometimes like to appoint one of their children. “But if children are busy with their own careers and their own children, they might not have time to handle administering your estate,” Delich-Gould says.

Advisors have a unique role

Compared to attorneys and other professionals clients work with, advisors can have a comparatively closer relationship. So, advisors can know better than other professionals about, for example, family dynamics that could impact an executor. “The advisor can play an important role in helping the client identify these issues and really teeing them up and bringing them to the attorney’s attention.” 

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