Trust and Estate Counsel

Tennessee Estate Planning Law

Insight and commentary on estate planning issues impacting affluent residents of Tennessee

So you want to be an Executor

You should carefully consider your answer if a friend or family member asks you to serve as his or her executor.

Most first time executors underestimate the number of tasks that must be completed by an executor. There is potential liability if something bad happens. For example, the beneficiaries want you to keep a certain asset and the value of the asset suddenly declines for reasons beyond your control.

Executors have to make difficult decisions. What is best for the estate as a whole may not be the best for particular beneficiaries. Finally, beneficiaries can be challenging to deal with. Beneficiaries often view the executor as preventing them from receiving their inheritance.

Keith Keisling sent me the following poem which summarizes some of the potential headaches faced by an executor.


I had a friend who died and he,
On earth so loved and trusted me,
That ere he quit this earthly shore,
He made me his executor.
He tasked me through my natural life,
To guard the interests of his wife,
To see that everything was done,
Both for his daughter and his son.
I have his money to invest,
And though I try my level best,
To do what wisely, I’m advised,
My judgment oft is criticized.

His widow once so calm and meek,
Comes, hot with rage, three times a week,
And rails at me, because I must,
To keep my oath appear unjust.
His children hate the sight of me,
Although their friend I’ve tried to be,
And every relative declares,
I interfere with his affairs.
Now when I die I’ll never ask,
A friend to carry such a task,
I’ll spare him all such anguish sore,
And leave a hired executor.

---Today and Tomorrow, Edgar A. Guest
(Chicago: Reilly & Lee Company, 1942)