Being an Executor in a Pandemic

It seems like all we are talking about in my local community is what back to school will look like for local grade schools and even colleges and universities.  But just as we are contemplating what this aspect of life will look like, time, and COVID-19, march on.  

But it is not just the back to school world that this pandemic is throwing into flux.  If you’ve lost a loved one during this pandemic, you have noticed that even law firms and local courts look very different right now.  

How can you complete, let alone begin, all of your executor duties right now?

Do a little research.

The businesses and courts you need to accomplish your executor role are still functioning; they just look different than they used to.  Some offices are even opening back up.  So check the website of the probate court or even pick up the phone and call them.  Do the same for the estate attorney.  As you work through your checklist, know that most everything you need to accomplish your executor tasks is still operating.  You just have to see what it looks like right now.  

And remember, state and local regulations are changing daily, and businesses are making new policies to adjust to these regulations and to keep you and their staff safe.  Just because you checked with your bank last month about how to open an estate account doesn’t mean that their policy looks the same this month.  It is a good idea to check in regarding policies frequently.  

Be prepared to wait.

Just because you call or email an office, it doesn’t mean you will get through immediately.  Many people just like you are doing the exact same thing right now.  Higher call volumes and longer wait times are the norm right now.  Before you get frustrated, remember that some people are still working from home, trying to juggle childcare or even care for a stick relative.  Others are working staggered hours in the office so social distance can be maintained.  So when you call to try to cancel cable service at the deceased’s residence, remember how hard this pandemic is on everyone and be patient as you work through these executor duties.  

Slower is not bad.

Handling grief over the loss of a loved one, while simultaneously grieving for everything and everyone we’ve lost during the pandemic is incredibly hard.  Take time to take care of yourself.  There is no need to force yourself to rush through your executor responsibilities at the expense of your own wellbeing.   

Also, go ahead and acknowledge that you are going to hit some roadblocks, and that’s okay.  The real estate market may not be great and it might take longer to sell the deceased’s house.  You may even live a long distance from the deceased and may not feel comfortable traveling right now.  Use this time to engage in some proactive planning.  Review all of the steps in your plan.  Think through everything you have to do and get your own game plan together for tackling everything.  This is a great way to feel productive when you face the roadblocks you know will come.  

There are some things that cannot wait.  Don’t lose sight of them.

For example, don’t let any tax or probate court obligations slip by.  Do not assume that because we are in a pandemic you won’t be held accountable.  You will, and if you make mistakes like this, you can be held legally liable.

As an executor, you have a lot to do.  Throw on top of that a global pandemic and it can get overwhelming quickly.  If you are using your plan to understand the requirements of your executor role, you are able to break your tasks down into manageable pieces.  Taking the initiative to understand how you can interact with businesses and organizations during the pandemic can keep you on the right path to accomplishing your executor duties successfully.