The executor of your will

Making a good choice

Having an executor of your will is like having a manager of your affairs (your estate) after your death. Your executor is named in your will; it is his or her role to carry out the terms of your will. Many people have more than one executor; it spreads the load and it’s also good to have another executor to discuss things with.

Who do you choose?

You can choose anyone to be your executor, but they do need some special qualities. You should consider:

Age: you want them to have the energy, ability and maturity to deal with your affairs. Sometimes this can be a fine balance – if you have someone older there’s a risk they could die before you or could become incapable of fulfilling their duties. However, someone younger may not have sufficient life experience to cope with the role.

Temperament: dealing with an estate can be quite emotional. You want your executors to be calm, steady, decisive and with loads of common sense.

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People and the right information are vital for effective governance

Guest editorial: Kirsten Patterson,
CEO, Institute of Directors

The damage from governance failure can be profound, and can attract significant unwelcome media and public scrutiny. Focusing on the learnings from these cases is how we can get some real benefit and continuous improvement in corporate governance.

 

He tāngata – it is the people

Governance is, above all, about people. It’s a team game and, like any team, the board’s composition, and its culture and dynamic, are all critical to its effectiveness. Boards need a broad mix of skills and experience now and for the future. Individual attributes of directors are also highly relevant such as integrity, courage, judgement, emotional agility, energy and curiosity. Other factors relating to board composition include diversity, new membership and tenure. Getting the right mix and balance can be as much art as science. Putting time and thought into developing a skills matrix to determine the board’s needs is worth the investment.

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Trustees’ personal liability for litigation costs

It can be an unpleasant surprise

Trustees and executors are not always entitled to reimbursement for their litigation costs.

While most trustees and executors will assume that costs incurred in the course of their trustee or executorship will be paid from the estate or trust, the recent decision in Courteney v Pratley[1] is an illustration of the perils that trustees or executors can face when they go to court.

Trustees and executors are in charge of the property of others. They are not expected to pay for their own expenses in doing so and, as such, are usually entitled to reimbursement of the costs they incur.

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Ageing Trustees

Know when to walk away

When Barack Obama was US president, he made an historic visit to Africa. One of the messages he repeated was that, under the US Constitution, he could only be president for eight years and this time limit is generally a good thing.

Obama was, of course, making an indirect reference to the tendency in some African countries for leaders to have themselves declared to be president for life. This, in Obama’s view, was not only unhealthy but also an excessive burden for one person to bear for too long.

Something similar could be said of some trustees. No one should want to be trustee for life. It’s useful for trustees to think about a succession plan: which trustees should we expect to retire or be replaced and who are the likely replacement trustees? Sometimes, likely future trustees are asked to sit in on trustee meetings to understand how the trust runs. (We have an article about the process for retiring trustees here.)

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Retiring as a Trustee?

There’s a process that should avoid any problems down the line

Many people agree to act as trustees of trusts set up by friends or relatives on the basis that they wish to help out or assist their friend or relative in some way. Eventually it comes time to retire as trustee for reasons such as age, the winding up of the trust or other changes of circumstance.

Retiring as a trustee is not as simple as it sounds and there are a number of potential liabilities that need to be covered off.

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Trusts Bill

Some key proposals

In late 2013, the Law Commission completed a report recommending that a new Trusts Act replace the Trustee Act 1956. The public consultation phase began last December with the release of the exposure draft Bill. It is intended that the new legislation will be the primary source of trust law in New Zealand. We outline below some key proposals.

trustsbill

Definition

Most trusts in New Zealand are established with a written trust deed or other document such as a Will. These are known as ‘express trusts.’ The Bill only applies to express trusts. Characteristics of express trusts are defined in the Bill as:

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Parallel Trusts: Could be the best option for you

With the growth of multiple relationships and blended families many couples are having to consider ways to ringfence assets and protect inheritances. One option is to establish parallel trusts – so you each have your own trust for your share of the assets.

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FATCA and New Zealand Trusts

North American Bald Eagle on American flag

Many trusts may require registration with the United States’ IRS under the FATCA regime

The US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) has been in force in New Zealand since June 2014. FATCA is a complex piece of legislation established to prevent tax evasion by requiring foreign financial institutions to register and report to the IRS in relation to any accounts held on behalf of US citizens.

All New Zealand entities considered to be ‘foreign financial institutions’ under the FATCA regime should have been registered on the IRS website by 31 December 2014. Continue reading “FATCA and New Zealand Trusts”