The executor of an estate is the person tasked with tying up a deceased person’s affairs. Often, the duty falls to a spouse or another family member but can also be an attorney, an accountant, or financial advisor, or even a friend. While it may feel like an honor to be named executor of a loved one’s estate, it’s also a lot of work. According to research by EstateExec, it takes – on average – nearly 16 months to settle an estate and around 570 hours of time for the executor alone!
Most of us wouldn’t dream of burdening another person – particularly a family member — with something potentially so complex and so time consuming. That’s why it’s important to do what we can to make the process as easy as possible for the loved ones we leave behind. Here are some simple ways to help your executor be ready when the time comes:
- Make sure the executor you choose understands and accepts the role. Ironically, some people only discover they’ve been named to the role of executor after their loved one dies. If their relationship with the deceased wasn’t close, they likely have no understanding of the person’s last wishes or what they need to do to fulfill them. When asking someone to serve as your executor, meet to discuss what the job entails. Explain the role you wish your executor to fill, and talk them through your end-of-life wishes. Stay in regular communication and make sure your executor is aware of any changes to your plans.
- Provide your executor with the location of your will and other important documents. If you keep your documents in your home, be sure to tell your executor their exact whereabouts, and provide a key or combination if you keep them locked up. If your attorney holds these documents for you, let your executor know the attorney’s contact information. Alternatively, if you store your important documents online, provide the website and any password information your executor will need to access them.
- And speaking of passwords … make those available to your executor too. As part of closing out your affairs, your executor will need access to social media account logins, email access, online accounts, and the security codes to access your phone, tablet, or computer. You don’t necessarily need to provide the passwords now. Instead, keep a list of passwords with your other important information and let your executor know how to access it when the time comes. Be sure to keep the list updated!
- Consider your non-financial assets.Perhaps you own valuable artwork, a Stradivarius violin, heirloom jewelry, or a historic family Bible. While your estate plan may already address who gets these one-of-a-kind personal assets when you die, discuss your intentions with your executor, and make the person aware of any potential conflicts that could arise over how those assets get distributed. These kinds of conversations can help your executor manage disputes over your valuables and items of sentimental value, and ensure your wishes prevail.
- Introduce your executor to your professional advisors. This could include your attorney, accountant, financial advisor, and even business partners. These individuals may be able to help your executor with final tax returns, distribution of your assets, or the sale of your business.
- Revisit your plans with your executor regularly. It’s highly likely that you’ll experience changes throughout your life, and your last wishes will need to incorporate those changes. You may buy or sell a business, experience the death of a spouse or child, add children or grandchildren, or inherit money or other valuables. At least once a year, or as changes occur, make your executor aware of what’s happening and how these new developments affect your end-of-life decisions.
Let’s face it. Serving as an executor is tough, especially if the executor is your spouse or your child, and they’re grieving as they attempt to settle your affairs. Preparing in advance not only helps you ensure the best outcome, but it also helps your executor feel confident that they’re acting in accordance with your wishes. Download Savant’s Estate and Trust Administrators Guide to get started organizing your affairs today.