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For most people, choosing someone to administer their estate on death is an easy decision. Frequently, family members or friends will be chosen because of their personal connection to the subject in question, their perceived experience in these matters and their pragmatic approach to life. In addition, if a partner is around, they normally all “get on”.
The conversation may arise over a cup of tea, a Sunday lunch or even as a throw away comment. In my experience, the decision is made by both parties with little thought to the matter in hand. After all, it’s not going to happen for ages is it?
I have found the reality to be very different. The person responsible for administering your finances either on death or in the event of mental incapacity will bear a huge burden that is unlikely to have been previously considered.
Family members, who previously got on, suddenly find they have conflicting interests as some will be beneficiaries of the estate and others may not. It is not uncommon for the green-eyed monster to raise its ugly head in these circumstances.
If acting as an attorney for someone, the attorney has certain responsibilities and restrictions placed on them. For example, they can’t just “squirrel” away money on behalf of the donor or make gifts to charities or family/friends. It is often the case that the attorney has been chosen because they are a family member and therefore has little experience on such matters….and in our experience, little guidance available to them either!
In my opinion, the key to a sensible outcome is to use a balance of family/friends and professionals. Many people considering their estate planning will still feel happier using family members particularly those who are used to dealing with affairs of this type. It is, however, very helpful to also appoint a professional, usually a lawyer, to act alongside the other executors in order to bring an impartial element to the arrangements. This can often provide useful, professional advice in respect of probate or tax planning matters…… and they can act as a referee if problems then ensue!