August 14, 2013

The spouse is the person most often chosen by wealthy individuals to serve as executor of their will for one primary reason – trust. 

will and calculatorSix of 10 respondents to the 2013 Insights on Wealth and Worth report by U.S. Trust said they named their spouse or partner as executor of their will or estate because of their level of trust in that person. The respondents to the survey have assets of more than $3 million, in addition to their home.

The rest of the respondents said they will name one or more children as executor. In addition to trusting the person selected as executor, reasons for naming the family member executor include: “The person understands my wishes better than anyone else” “To honor this person” and “I don’t trust anyone else.”

Only about one-third said they chose the executor because the person had financial skills and knowledge, a key for the many tasks the executor is called on to accomplish.

The executor is responsible for making sure the assets of your estate are distributed according to your desires. Therefore, you should not only clearly define your intentions in your will, but also communicate them to your executor to avoid any later misunderstandings or misinterpretations.

While your spouse or another family member may most clearly understand and carry out your wishes, the duties of an executor may overwhelm someone who is also dealing with grief over your death. For this reason, and to minimize potential misunderstandings between family members, many people opt to appoint a professional, such as an accountant, an attorney or a bank.

Or, some appoint a family member and a professional as co-executors. Also, provisions should be made for a successor executor in the case of death or incapacitation of the named executor.

The duties of an executor include:

  • Identifying, collecting and preserving assets
  • Notifying creditors and paying off debts
  • Filing claims for pension and profit-sharing plan benefits, Social Security benefits and veteran’s benefits payable to the estate
  • Selling assets to pay estate taxes and related fees
  • Filing final individual income tax returns and the estate tax returns
  • Keeping detailed records of all financial transactions related to the estate and distributing these to heirs and/or the probate court
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries

This article was originally posted on August 14, 2013 and the information may no longer be current. For questions, please contact GRF CPAs & Advisors at