You Want Me To What?!

The Great Pyramid Scheme And Other Odd Misadventures In Executorship

In choosing the executor of one’s last will and testament, conventional wisdom suggests that honesty, duty and a sense of reverence should rank foremost on the list of attributes one seeks.

Falling somewhat lower on the list would be cold-heartedness, rash decision-making and anyone whose approach to problem-solving involves tarp and bungee cords. You might want to steer clear, for example, of any guy who affixes your late Aunt Edna to the luggage rack of the family station wagon (Clark Griswold, we’re looking at you).

In all seriousness, the process involved in choosing one’s executor is a sober and somber affair. But selecting an individual with a knack for pulling-off big projects never hurts, either.

Consider the predicament of Craterus. A Greek warlord of antiquity who swished swords side-by-side with Alexander the Great, Craterus was appointed to carry-out the Macedonian conqueror’s final wishes. A distinguished honor, to be sure. 

But based on the slightly ambitious nature of the projects written into his will, one speculates whether Alexander managed to discuss logistics with his executor ahead of time.

Nowadays, the typical executor’s most urgent duty might amount to feeding the cat or canceling Netflix. Craterus, though, was charged with tending to such ‘minor details’ as circumnavigating Africa, conquering Arabia (or what was left of it after Alexander’s reign of terror), and the forced migration to Europe of the entire populace of the Asian continent (and remember, this was before JetBlue offered free Wi-Fi).

Then, as if Craterus didn’t have enough on his plate already, Alexander penciled in this kicker: “In honor of my father Philip II of Macedonia, build a tomb to rival the great pyramids of Egypt.”

Now, I don’t know the Greek translation for “Um, excuse me?”, but no reasonable person would fault Craterus if he added a few new curse words to the Greek lexicon when that will-reading went down.

And who could blame him? Any guy asked to round-up 20,000 slaves and stack 2.5 million stone blocks -- each the size of a Volkswagen -- would have to pass up a few Saturday afternoons at the gladiator fights.

The historical record tells us that Craterus, executor of the last will and testament of Alexander the Great, fell somewhat short in honoring his boss’s dad in Pyramid of Giza-like proportions. (The again, nor did Craterus bungee-cord Philip II to the roof of the family chariot for a cross-country road trip.)

Thankfully, the duties expected of modern executors are somewhat less ambitious by comparison, usually involving nothing more hair-raising than the management and distribution of assets.

Of course, having at one’s command a staff of experts accustomed to the sometimes turbulent waters of probate law never hurts.

If you have been appointed executor -- or would like advice in making that crucial selection -- call Gale & Nielsen for a free half-hour appointment: (707) 269-0167.