You’ve been appointed executor – but do you know what key discussions you should be having with the person who asked you?
While there is still time:
If you are going to be managing your parents’ estate, talking about distributing their possessions and the sale of their home is undoubtedly going to be painful – and therefore something you can easily put off for another time. It’s a conversation that fills you with dread – just as it may them, too. Yet, careful discussion will relieve the onus on you, the executor, when it comes to telling family members what they are, or are not, receiving in the will, according to the willholder’s wishes.
Maybe you’ve been nominated to manage the distribution of a neighbour’s affairs once they’ve passed. Though you are not immediate family, they have entrusted you with immense responsibility. You have a neutral part to play, but it is by no means a simple role. It would therefore be prudent to establish the details of what is to be bequeathed to whom, to save awkward disagreements when loved ones discover they are not being left what they had assumed they would be.
To spare distress and to ensure wishes are met, professionals advocate executors address the following things with their parents:
A recent industry study concluded that almost half of executors did not know the full value and whether they would be able to manage it.
Your parents’ estate will be valued more accurately for probate if you know exactly what they own.
New grandchildren, for example, need to be included in the wills if they are to receive a specific sum of the estate. If there has been a family fallout, have they updated the wills to reflect this? Again, the less unpleasant surprises the better.
All too often, looking after the paperwork falls to one person, with the other having no or very little idea of where the following documents are kept in the home:
With only one person managing the home affairs, a great many people experience unnecessary additional stress during their immediate loss. What if you were executor to one parent rather than two? Or to two different families? Would you know where to find the respective documents pertaining to the house? It can very quickly become very complicated, just at the time when you do not need the additional burden.
You need to consider, as a family, how your parents’ home is going to be split, if it has not already been specified in the will. If there are siblings, does one have sole responsibility of selling it and dividing the money? It is beneficial to all to have this conversation so there are no unpleasant surprises when the time comes.
For possessions such as antiques, heirlooms and jewellery, it is beneficial to all for parents to have an inventory outlining who is to receive what; better still, to openly talk about this with the family so everyone knows what to expect or even for siblings to agree (to disagree). If non-family members have been gifted, it helps to know this beforehand.
If you want to access your parents’ phone or computer to retrieve photos, for example, you will need to know their login details and passwords. You don’t automatically inherit one’s digital legacy; and no one wants to endure a court case just to do so.
Should they wish to appoint a separate executor for this purpose:
You may feel confident your parent wanted a cremation, but your sibling insists otherwise. If the funeral plans are stipulated in the will, there can be no argument over the integral aspect of such an important day. Do they want hymns or modern-day music that was personal to them? Did they carry a donor card? If you’ve never had the conversation, or it’s not been formalised in their will, their wishes will not be respected.
As the child, you may not feel comfortable receiving payment for managing your parents’ estate, particularly if you are set to inherit; however, for those executors who are not beneficiaries, it is only fair for them to receive from the will. Being an executor is a responsibility which demands time and effort.
VaultWill helps you protect your legacy. Read our case studies to see how we have given families peace of mind when preparing for the inevitable.
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