As an estate owner, choosing the right executor for your estate is a difficult decision. An executor has a lot of responsibilities, so you need to find the right person for the job. You can name an executor in your will, but informing that person of your decision beforehand can make the estate settlement process much smoother.
How to Inform Your Executor of Your Decision
Have a frank and open conversation with the person you choose to be the executor of your estate. Share why you made that choice, and talk through the responsibilities to ensure he or she is up to the task. With your executor on board, now is a good time to review critical information. Following this initial conversation, you may want to discuss your estate plan on a semi-regular basis to keep your executor informed of any important updates.
Conversation Topics Should Include…
- Location of important documents. Knowing the location of essential estate documents such as the will, insurance policy information and property deeds will make your executor’s job much easier. Agree on a secure location for these documents – whether at home, in a safety deposit box or in the hands of an attorney. Separately stored backup copies are always a good idea.
- Asset inventory. As best possible, identify all valuable assets. This includes everything from real estate and jewelry to stocks and intellectual property. And don’t forget items with sentimental value. These often cause the most difficulty for executors, as you can’t measure that value or distribute it equally among beneficiaries. Create a list of the ideal recipients for each item and write down your reasoning for choosing the heir. This can help prevent family feuds in the future.
- Asset titles and ownership. Titles reflect who technically owns a property. Review all asset titles and decide if any should be changed to naturally transfer ownership to the correct estate heir. You may also want to review beneficiaries listed on pensions, insurance policies and retirement accounts, since a will has no bearing on the receipt of these assets except in the case where no beneficiary is designated.
- Schedule for updating estate information. Executors should encourage estate owners to revisit their wills periodically to keep estate plan information up to date. Life events such as the birth of a grandchild may affect beneficiary designations. Conducting a yearly inventory of assets can also speed up the amount of time you spend settling the estate in the future.
- “Trusted Contacts” members. Advisors close to the estate owner can be thought of as a circle of trust. Your executor is a member of this group. Others may include your attorney, beneficiaries, accountants and insurance agents. Have contact information for all such parties so your executor can reach out to them with any questions about the estate.
Being an executor comes with a lot of challenges. As the estate owner, you can make your executor’s job a lot easier by addressing important estate planning items ahead of time.