by Bhaj Townsend
I think one of the most challenging aspects to being an executor to an estate is dealing with other family members and beneficiaries.
While the executor has their duties and obligations to fulfill, others have their agendas to forward.
I remember, fifteen years ago, when a relative, John, passed away after suffering from a painful death from a rare bacterial invasion. John penned his will in the hospital, under heavy medication, shortly before he died. Pete, one of his surviving siblings, was named executor. The remaining four siblings were outraged. They felt the will was made in duress and under pressure from the executor, Pete, who, they thought, told their brother what to write.
Settling John’s estate was onerous. Everything from deciding on a burial or cremation to distribution of personal items, to bickering over how many life insurance policies there might be, became areas of discord. To make it even worse, Pete’s wife sent curt notes to the siblings about their behaviors in the matter of settling John’s estate.
Although the will was eventually settled, familial relationships changed. Some were severed as suspicions and mistrust replaced the bonds that had kept the siblings in touch with each other.
There are tools available today to reduce the need for highly charged emotional situations as the one I just described.
One of the best tools I use is a booklet we have called Making It Easier For My Loved Ones. It organizes a person’s affairs and covers so many things not found in a will. It has sections to indicate where password lists to critical websites (utility companies, bank accounts, memberships…) are located, who is to receive what jewelry, rare books or sentimental items (often contentious areas of distribution), where key documents ( life insurance policies, veteran benefits, credit card information) are located just to touch the surface. One area I especially like is the nudge to write your own obituary, for those who are so inclined.
This booklet is a great gift to give clients. It serves an organized roadmap to their wishes making it easier for their loved ones. When filled out it speaks for us when we can no longer do so for ourselves because we are gone.