Keep Going!

You’ve served as an executor.  You’ve seen what the will writer did (or did not do) when planning their estate.  You’ve seen the issues surrounding money, property and people.  And you are exhausted.

But even when you are ready to take a well deserved break from all the various aspects of your executor duties, don’t let all of this incredibly valuable knowledge and experience go to waste. 

Keep going!

If you go through the experience of serving in the executor role and don’t do one thing for your own estate afterwards, you have wasted a lot of time and knowledge.

Serving in the executor role is, of course, serving the person who died, but you can also turn it into a gift to your own beneficiaries and your future executor.  Here are five simple questions to ask yourself as you plan your own estate after completing service in the executor role.  

  1. Have you looked at your own will recently? If you haven’t, now is the time.  You learned a lot while serving in the executor role.  Read through your will and see if anything needs to be updated and do it now.
  2. Where did you struggle? Did you have trouble finding items bequeathed in the will?  Were important records disorganized or difficult to find, perhaps including the will itself?  Did you struggle to figure out who served as the deceased’s accountant or financial advisor?  Make note of all the ways you struggled while completing your executor duties and then work to correct these issues in your own estate planning.
  3. What made your executor duties easier? The other side to the coin of your struggles is your successes.  What did the deceased do that made the executor role easier?  Did she prepare a list of important individuals like beneficiary names, addresses and telephone numbers that were kept updated every time someone moved, married, etc.? Did she prepare a list of important estate assets and where they could be found? Make note of the things that made performing the executor role easier and then do them in your own estate planning.
  4. Who should serve as your executor? Some people pick an executor without much thought about whether that person would actually be good at the role.  Now that you’ve seen what the executor duties entail, ask yourself the question–who should serve as my executor?  Perhaps you saw conflict within the family or among the beneficiaries of the estate for which you served in the executor role.  Be sure that the person serving as the executor of your estate can handle this conflict and drama.  Maybe the time commitment as you were completing your executor duties was more than you imagined it would be.  Think about naming an executor for your estate who would be willing to handle that level of work – and someone who is organized enough to stay on top of it all. Remember there are typically 100+ duties for an executor.
  5. Have you talked with your beneficiaries? In many estates, beneficiaries know they will inherit from an estate.  That’s because beneficiaries are often close family and friends of the deceased.  And while you don’t have to outline all of the contents of your will, it may be helpful to let the beneficiaries know that you’ve made a will and that you’ve done your best to prepare for the administration of your estate to make it as easy as possible for your executor and your beneficiaries.  It can help your beneficiaries to know that when the executor carries out their duties, they are following your instructions and wishes.  

So, even though you’re likely exhausted from your executor duties, keep going while all of this information is fresh in your mind, and plan your own estate.