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