Set your executor up for success

How to Set Your Executor Up for Success

Take action - make it easier for your executor family member later

You’ve taken that important step to create a Will and you can put your feet up knowing your affairs are in order. But are they really? Does your future executor have the information they need to hit the ground running?

Of the 14.8 million Canadians aged 45 or older, 99% intend to name a friend or family member as their executor.* Is your estate plan stress proof for your executor and family?

*(Stats Canada, BMO Leger Survey)

It starts with you deciding what your final wishes are, locating and documenting your important personal and financial information, and reviewing everything with your executor and family.

After reading this article you will learn what you can do to streamline the process for your executor to create a clear path to success.

Let’s look at 3 ways to set your executor up for success:

1. Review Your Will for Updates and Clarity

First and foremost, if you are one of the 70%* of Canadians who do not have a current and valid will, take action now to create or update! If you do not have a Will, be sure to read our previous article on Five Unexpected Consequences of Dying Without a Will in Ontario.

* from “Leave a Legacy”

Wills can vary greatly. Most include standard clauses that cover important information about naming an executor and beneficiaries, but they vary in providing the necessary level of clarity. 

Let’s look at some common mistakes concerning Wills

Failure to regularly review your Will

The one thing we can all count on is change. And change can alter the directions outlined in your Will. A few tips to consider:

  • Review your Will at least once per year
  • Life event changes should always prompt a review, such as marriage, divorce, death in the family, new child or grandchild
  • Changes in assets such as buying or selling real estate

Lack of clarity

Not contemplating certain events can cause unintended consequences, for example:

  • Your Will does not include a clause that contemplates future children or grandchildren causing newborns to be inadvertently excluded
  • Not including a remainder of estate to your beneficiaries clause, can leave family members excluded when new assets are acquired and not listed in your Will
  • Your Will does not name a successive subscriber for an RESP or authorize your executor to do so, causing the RESP to be terminated and resulting in loss of grants, bonds, interest earned, and punitive tax treatment

As with most things in life - the devil is in the details

2. Get Your Documents Organized

Executor success

The most concise Will does not give your executor a roadmap outlining your last wishes or the location of your personal and financial information required to do their job. Going through filing cabinets and online files takes time. 

Depending on the complexity of the estate, an executor can take an average of 570 hours of work effort and usually 18 months to settle an estate.*

*EstateExecTM – General Statistics

Streamline Your Executor’s Experience 

Your family will be stressed enough grieving your loss. Why burden them with the daunting task of trying to locate important documents so bills can be paid and your estate can be settled?

Gather and document:

  • Personal information – birth certificate, passport, SIN, drivers license, health card….
  • Financial information -bank and investment statements, property tax, income tax returns,loans, credit cards, insurance, real estate……
  • Legal documents – Will, powers of attorney, mortgage and loan agreements…..
  • Digital information – passwords, digital wallets….
  • Cash Flow and Net Worth – up to date records of assets and liabilities and monthly expenses and income
  • Contact information – trusted advisors, family, executor, POA, property maintenance, financial institutions, utility companies….

There are many templates available to help with document organization. Financial Concierge™  provides Professional Executor Services and uses the Family Playbook, their complete document organization tool. Learn more about the Family Playbook™ here.

Locating and organizing your documents saves your family time, reduces stress and accelerates estate settlement

3. Communicate with Your Executor and Family

The last thing you want to do is surprise your executor and family because you did not communicate your wishes and share your organized documents prior to your death. Yet it is not uncommon that this important step is missed.

Consider the following situations because of poor communication:

  • Your executor learns about their appointment after your death and declines to accept the role
    • With no alternate executor, your estate settlement is delayed while a grant of administration is filed with the courts (average time in the GTA is 8 months)
  • Your Will excludes one of your three children and your executor cannot explain your reason why
    • Leaving your family to argue and speculate and potentially challenge your decision in court
  • Your original Will cannot be located 
    • Creating doubt about which one is current
    • Causing a delay in filing probate and gaining access to accounts to pay bills
  • Your last wishes were not documented 
    • Creating confusion and discord in the family as they debate what you wanted

Communication is tricky at the best of times. What one person says or writes is not necessarily what another person hears or understands. Only through dialogue and questions can you be sure your intentions are clear and understandable. 

Clear communication gives your family peace of mind because they know your wishes and the reasons for your decisions

Set Your Executor Up for Success

Being an executor is a tough job. The role demands patience, perseverance and managing highly charged family dynamics. And it’s even tougher when the executor is a grieving loved one. Consider the tips in this article to make their job easier and set them up for success.

Locate a document organization workbook and get your documents in order. Learn more about Financial Concierge™ Family Playbook.

Consider working with a third party impartial professional executor to either assist your executor in their duties or to appoint as your executor. Learn more about our Professional Executor services. 

Janet Jackson

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not intended to be legal or financial advice and should not be construed as anything other than for information purposes.

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