Who do you engage?
The spouse, children or immediate family members are often the logical choice for the appointment as executors and trustees. But today, many decide that an independent professional trust company may be preferred as an alternative to the appointment of a family member. This has often proven on hindsight to be the preferred solution. Another reason is the newly imposed regulations on individual trustees as discussed at 11.13 (Transparency and Effective Control Regulations). In any case, the newspapers are full of articles reporting cases where family members ended up taking each other to Court. Often, the disputes revolve around family members who act as joint executor and trustees.
Where joint executors and trustees are appointed, they must act unanimously in the discharge of their office responsibilities. Sometimes, they cannot agree and this can lead to delays in estate administration, potential litigation and other issues. See 4.9, the example in Lau Tyng Tyng v Lau Boon Wee, where a sister and her brother were appointed as the joint executors and trustees in the Will of their late father.
It is possible that a professional trust company be appointed as the default executor and trustee in the event that the family member who is appointed may himself be deceased or unwilling or incapable of acting as such.
Some criteria in selecting a suitable executor and trustee are as follows:
- Is the person responsible and trustworthy? Assess his character as manifested by his living habits and lifestyle.
- Is he in good health and likely to outlive the testator?
- The organizational skills of the person.
- His experience in managing and investing assets and also consider the types of assets to be managed.
- Does he get along with his family members?
- Would he be biased against certain beneficiaries?
- Is he likely to accept the job as it means taking up his personal time in administering the estate?
- Is he likely to expect a fee or remuneration as this is a voluntary role?