When you prepare your Will, you need to choose someone to be the Executor of your Estate. Your Executor will be in charge of carrying out the wishes you express in your Will. This person is usually someone close to you because you will want someone you trust.
The truth about acting as an Executor
The job of being an Executor is tedious, onerous and involves mountains of paperwork.
The average Estate involves 12 to 18 months 1 of the following tasks:
- Preparing funeral arrangements;
- Filing your personal and Estate tax returns;
- Establishing the value of all assets and liabilities of your Estate;
- Collecting any insurance to be paid to your Estate;
- Filling out paperwork for courts, banks, and government agencies; and
- Keeping clear accounting records of anything spent from Estate Funds or distributed from your Estate.
If, after reading that list, you thought about naming your sibling (out of revenge for years of hair-pulling, name-calling, and the many times they shared embarrassing photos of you as a kid), then you are grasping how tedious a process it can be.
Some good news for your Executor: most Wills include language that allows your Executor to charge the Estate for his or her time. The amount charged to the Estate must be reasonable, but it can help to offset the amount of time spent dealing with your Estate.
Most Wills also allow your Executor to hire professionals to deal with the accounting, the legal work, etc., if they so choose. With that said, even if your Executor hires professionals to deal with the legal and accounting matters, your Executor is still responsible for your Estate, which can be stressful.
Ways to make it easier on the Executor of your Will
The first, and most important way, is to pick the right person. Some people are better organized and more patient when dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy than others. 2
The right person will be able to:
- deal with government agencies, lawyers, and accountants;
- deal with the beneficiaries you named in your Will;
- spend the time that is required to act as Executor and settle your Estate.
If you have someone in mind, the next way to make the process easier on them is to inform them of your choice and make sure that they are willing to act on your behalf. When you speak with them, make sure you give them all of the details about what being an Executor entails, so that they don’t agree to it without understanding what it involves. 3 This way they can be mentally prepared to act on your behalf.
If you are leaving everything to your spouse, then naming that spouse as Executor is often a reasonable choice. But if your spouse is uncomfortable with the process of executing your Estate then it is probably best to listen to them and name someone else, or at least to have a conversation in which they can understand the executor’s role more fully. Additionally, if you know there is conflict between your current spouse and other family members, it may be best to name someone else who is separate from the conflict and can be seen as unbiased.
If you have gone through the process of choosing your Executor and you have found that you have more than one person who would be appropriate, don’t worry – this is a good thing! I always recommend to my clients that they choose backups to their Executor, in case someone moves away or is unable to act for any reason.
No one comes to mind? No worries
If there is no one in your life who seems like an appropriate choice for the role of Executor, there is always the ability to name a corporate Executor, where a bank acts to finalize your Estate. In the right circumstances, a corporate Executor can be a very smart decision, while in others it may be unnecessary.
Like your Will, you can change your Executor if you need to
It is important to take the time to pick the right person as your Executor. But know that you may need to revisit your choice in the years to come. Your Will is essentially a list of instructions that you leave behind, and the Executor’s job is to fulfil those instructions. Fortunately, your Will doesn’t have to be static. As your life changes, your wishes may change, and so may the people you trust. Given the work you put into building your assets and developing an Estate Plan, you owe it to yourself and your beneficiaries to choose someone who will administer your Estate accordingly and to keep the role of Executor as up to date as your Will.
Unlike choosing your Executor, preparing a Will is one thing we can help you take care of pretty easily — it can be completed in as little as two meetings. And at The Last Word, we’re happy to come to you. Which means you’ve got more time to obsess about who you would trust to carry out your wishes!