Many of us have gotten the text message or email from a friend or family member, “Hey can I put you down as the executor?” Especially with the boom in estate planning over the last year or so, it has become a popular question. And, for a select few, they may have been asked multiple times. However, when that friend or family member passes, and one actually becomes an executor, what do they actually have to do?
What is an executor?
It is likely that at least some of those who answered yes to the executor question did not know what that actually meant. After all, executor is not exactly a word we use every day. Essentially, this is the person that is designating in a will as the administrator of the deceased person’s estate. In other words, the executor is in charge of ensuring that the person’s final wishes are carried out, meaning distributing and inventorying assets, closing financial accounts, etc. Though, even for those that actually understand what this means, the task (and paperwork) can and are daunting, especially if there are kids, complicated financial instruments and a large number of heirs.
The human element
Being an executor is often (and usually) a thankless job with mountains of paperwork, but what many do not expect is the human element. This is because everyone involved, including the executor, is dealing with the loss of a loved one. Then, in addition, to dealing with one’s own grief, executors must deal with other’s grief, along with mediating heir squabbles and pacifying impatient heirs.
A key to success
After answering yes to the executor question, talk to the will writer to truly understand what they want and be specific. And, ensure that all of these wishes are outlined in the will. Have that uncomfortable conversation because once they pass, they will not be there to answer questions or clarify any ambiguous language. This is especially true if they plan any post-death bombshells, like leaving something to a former lover or cutting out a child or family member. Ask them to write a letter of explanation, or a last letter of instruction to be read after death explaining the bombshell decision. Remember, the executor will have to deal with the fallout, not the will drafter.
Call and, if needed, hire an attorney
Even for the most studious of us, sometimes, being an executor is too much or it may just come with questions. This is when it is time to call, and if needed, hire a Southeast Michigan estate planning attorney for help. An attorney can help a new executor through the process and ensure it is done legally.