Managing Grief in the Executor Role

 Thursday, May 17, 2018     Patrick O'Brien, CEO & co-founder of Executor.org     General

Managing Grief in the Executor Role Featured Photo

The executor role is a challenging one. There are 100+ steps, and most executors are grieving the loss of a loved one, making the job even more difficult.

Here are five tips from our experts at Executor.org to help you manage the process of settling an estate while you're also dealing with a loss:

  1. Allow yourself to grieve. In most instances, if you are named as an estate executor, the will writer is a family member or close friend. So, in addition to your executor duties, you'll also be grieving. Grief not only makes us sad but can make us anxious and less able to concentrate. Remember, while there will be things that need to be done right away (including making notifications that will help eliminate potential identity theft), for the most part, you will have time to take a breath, mourn with loved ones, and get through the first couple weeks after the loss without worrying about all the executor business just yet.
  2. Get help. Settling an estate is often confusing. You'll see some complicated documents such as wills and trusts, and you'll have to wrap your head around at least a basic understanding of probate court requirements. Later in the process, items may need to be appraised and sold. It can seem overwhelming, so don't be afraid to ask for help. In fact, in most cases, you really should not undertake the process by yourself (unless you are a professional who does this day in and day out). Professionals can help, and estate funds can be used to pay their fees, so the expense is not yours. Tools like those offered by Executor's Choice can also help by allowing you to make many critical and time-sensitive notifications in one easy step. Remember, it's not the role of the executor to personally close the estate, but to manage the process.
  3. Get and stay organized. An executor has a lot to keep up with and manage. From financial documents to death certificates and everything in between, the paperwork can pile up. That is why it is so important to stay organized. Executor.org users tell us our interactive checklist (which we create specifically for you when you sign up) is an invaluable resource. It not only lists what needs to be done, but also helps you keep track of it all so nothing slips through the cracks. If you're not using Executor.org, make a list of things that need to be done, and once they are complete, put notes and documentation in a filing system. You should be making notes each time you correspond with someone regarding the estate. Spend time each week maintaining your filing system and checking items off the to-do list, so you don't get behind.
  4. Communicate. Beneficiaries obviously have a vested interest in the project of settling an estate. They'll probably be eager to see the estate closed, the deceased's home cleared out, and any keepsakes and assets distributed. It is important to communicate with them often, to put them at ease about your progress and inform them of any delays. Remember that everyone involved in the process, especially people named in the will, want to hear from you on a regular basis. Even if it's just a quick update, it's best to let everyone know what's going on.
  5. Start early, if you can. If you have already been named as executor, it is helpful to talk to the will writer to learn some basics about their estate plan. Find out where the will is kept; and request that they keep an updated list of financial assets, important account numbers, and passwords and let you know how to access it. Find out whether they have funeral plans and whether they already have a relationship with an accountant, estate attorney, financial planner or other professionals. Yes, it can be difficult to broach the subject of death. But they will likely feel better knowing that their wishes will be followed and you'll feel better knowing that you have the information you need.

At Executor.org, we simplify the executor process by creating a free, custom checklist for executors based on their specific needs. We also have collected advice from experts on how to manage the process with minimal stress and anxiety. Between our online software and the tools here on Executor's Choice, you can successfully settle an estate in less time, with less worry.


Understanding your Responsibilities as an Executor

 Tuesday, May 16, 2017     Executor's Choice     General

Understanding your Responsibilities as an Executor Featured Photo

An estate executor – or in Ontario, an estate trustee – is the person or party named in the will of the deceased who has the primary responsibility for the administration of the deceased’s estate.

The executor duties for handling the estate include taking interim possession of all assets, having to probate the estate if necessary, paying probate fees, paying all debts, distributing the assets to all beneficiaries, and filing all required forms in a timely fashion.

The executor has to prepare a complete list of all assets and liabilities, as well as their value at the time of death. This includes cash, securities, jewelry, real estate, and other valuables, such as contents of safety deposit boxes. The executor must account for the estate assets, as well as protect against theft, fire, loss, and any other destruction. If you fail to preserve the assets you may be held liable.

Accountability measures need to be taken, such as filing tax returns, estate balance sheets, filling all necessary court documents, and communicating with local, provincial, federal and foreign governments.

It is your responsibility as executor to discover all documents relevant to the decedent’s estate. This includes searching every box, envelope, safe, filing cabinet, and storage container, and handling each document with concern – ensuring proper accounting of the decedent’s personal and business affects.

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