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Professional executors see increase in requests for services

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More money, more problems.

That's part of what is driving more people to hire professionals to be the executors of their wills rather than naming a family member to carry out last wishes, according to industry professionals.

While the previous generation may not have had many possessions to divide, the baby boomer generation has accumulated much more wealth and assets, leaving the potential for complications when they die.

That, and the seemingly constant changes in tax law concerning death, brings the possibility for headaches that a person making out a will might not want to force on a family member.

And while it's not new for professionals in banking, accounting or the law to be hired as executors, the practice is on the rise, local industry professionals said.

"It's growing just by sheer population growth," said Mark Ritter, president and CEO of Susquehanna Trust and Investment Co., a division of Lititz-based Susquehanna Bank. "Estates are bigger, and that wealth transfer is driving the use of corporate fiduciaries as executors."

Bank professionals point to factors such as the new accumulation of wealth, changes in the family structure and changes in tax law as some of the reasons the market is growing — and reasons they expect it to continue to grow.

"We definitely see a continuing need for the services our (estate settlement) team provides," said Chris Mason, senior regional fiduciary manager for Wells Fargo Private Bank Estate Service in Richmond, Va.

The pre-baby-boomer generation largely was made up of one-income, one-husband-and-one-wife family units, banking officials said. But families have changed since then.

In 1950, only 33.9 percent of women were employed, but by 2010, that percentage nearly had doubled to 62.2, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The divorce rate in 1950 was at 26 percent, but it rose to 50 percent by 1985, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2006 that 75 percent of those who divorce will remarry, potentially creating larger families with claims on an inheritance.

"You're talking about more wealth and more complex family structures," said Dan Driscoll, manager of private client services at Wilmington Trust's Harrisburg office. "For the first time, we're talking about vacation homes and multiple cars. This generation has acquired different kinds of assets than the previous generation."

Logistics can also play a part in the decision to hire a professional, Driscoll said. A family spread out across the country or even internationally could have a hard time naming a family member as an executor for a will because of flights and expenses.

Being an executor for a will could require that person to make multiple trips to where the will was filed, he said.

"Then, you're talking about flights, time off from work and expenses, and someone could just say, 'I'm not putting my kids through this,'" Driscoll said.

Many people, according to Dan Madio, director of trust and wealth management at Mid Penn Bank, don't even realize an outside agency could be the executor of a will.

"It's something (people) don't like to talk about or want to talk about," Madio said. "Nobody wants to face their own mortality. But it's a discussion people need to have."

The delicate nature of administering a will and dealing with a family in grief requires a certain type of person, Ritter said. That kind of sensitive personality is something that is difficult to train and is something he said the bank looks for during interviews with candidates.

He said many of the people who work with wills in his office are former lawyers or have received their law degrees, making it easier for them to interpret new laws. It is not a requirement, however, for a will executor to have a law degree.

"Personality is very, very important," Ritter said. "These are very sensitive issues they're dealing with on a daily basis. Like a lot of banking, it's all about relationship management."

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