Corporate Trustees as executors

I accompanied my wife down memory lane today…

Well, not MY memory lane but hers. We were at the Convent Butterworth in the afternoon to give farewell to one of her favourite ex-teachers, Mrs Shashi.

Mrs Shashi is the headmistress of the school and she will be retiring next month after almost 40 years in the teaching profession. She belongs to the old school — very dedicated to her profession. You don’t get to see many of them anymore.

She was relishing her role as a tourist guide, fondly showing this group of 40-something ladies every inch of the school, how it had been transformed through the years but of course, not mentioning how the school had lost its playing field to creeping development.

Until the 1980s, there was a patch of field of reasonable size in front of the Convent Butterworth building. I’m told that during wet spells you could say hello to the mud and floods. Then in the 1990s, the government took back some of the land to improve the traffic flow to the ferry terminal. Later, the school lost all that remained of the field when more land was acquired for the Butterworth Outer Ring Road project. Sad.

Anyway, my wife spent more than an hour reliving her five years (Class of 1979) in this school with a group of about 20 other ladies. And me being the only male beauty among the female beasts, I was the object of curiosity! :-)

All the small talk soon centred on them wanting to know more of my interests and when it became known that estate planning was one of my forte, they actually warmed up to me, asking this and that about the subject.

One thing I told them was to be careful when choosing an able executor in your Will. The executor is your personal representative who will be running about to administer your estate and carry out your wishes in your Will. It is no small task.

You can choose anyone to be your executor. When writing their Will, most people will choose a close family member like the son or daughter as the executor and often assume that this is the solution to all their estate administration needs. However, in reality, it is not so simple.

When you appoint an individual as your executor, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Will my executor have the time and expertise?
  • Will my executor be living nearby or far away?
  • What if my executor gives up halfway through administrating my estate?
  • What if my executor dies?
  • I can trust my executor now, but can I still trust him when I am no longer around?

If you find that these questions disturb you, is there any alternative for you? Luckily, you have. You can choose to have a Corporate Trustee as your executor — either as substitute or sole executor.

The Corporate Trustee can be named as a substitute to any individual that you want to be your first-choice executor.

This way, if the individual cannot perform as an executor later, he can give up this right to be one and the Corporate Trustee will take over.

The Corporate Trustee can also be named as the sole executor of your estate.

I always prefer this alternative because having an independent, third-party Corporate Trustee to look after your estate removes most of the difficulties that a beneficiary may have when he faces an executor who is an individual.

A Corporate Trustee is in the business of estate administration. Unlike individuals, it knows exactly what to do. So, delay in the estate administration process can be reduced.

Moreover, being independent means the Corporate Trustee will act impartially and fairly to all beneficiaries. Being independent also means that the beneficiaries’ individual interests in the estate are safeguarded.

Also, a Corporate Trustee gives continuity. One way or another, individuals may be affected by illnesses. When the Individual you appoint as the trustee has no time or gets sick, it again causes delays to the estate administration process. It is even worse if this Individual trustee were to die. On the other hand, a Corporate Trustee is not affected by sickness or death. There is perpetual continuity.

So you see, all these advantages in appointing a Corporate Trustee as your executor will make the beneficiaries’ lives so much simpler in the future. It is a worthwhile legacy to leave behind.

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