Selecting someone you trust to be an executor of your Will is an important decision. Being an executor means dealing with significant responsibilities at a time when that person is experiencing the stress and grief of a meaningful loss.
Preparing your future executor to do this sometimes-challenging job with confidence and ease is as important of a step in estate planning as drafting your Will. Here are five steps you can take now to make your executor’s job easier when the time comes.
In addition to a Will, an executor will need to know where to locate certain critical information for you at the time of your death, including a summary of your financial accounts, credit cards or other liabilities, whether you have any life insurance or annuities that need to be dealt with, if you have any prepaid funeral or other arrangements/wishes regarding the disposition of your body, and, to some extent, if possible, a way to access funds to cover any final expenses like additional funeral costs or medical bills pending qualification to administer your Will.
By planning ahead, you can let your executor know where they can find important documents and how to access your records and accounts. You can also set up a way for them to easily access funds so they don’t have to use their own money to cover unexpected costs. Additionally, details can change before you pass that might require you to revise your Will. Keep your executor involved by regularly updating them throughout the process.
Make sure that they will have access to your home after you die and be able to secure your belongings in order to do their job.
Get your documents in order
Even the best-written documents can cause confusion. Review these documents with your executor so there’s no second-guessing your wishes and they can ask questions about your instructions or assets. Make sure they understand what’s passing through your Will and what’s passing to directly named beneficiaries outside your Will, along with contact information for your beneficiaries.
As the executor proceeds to carry out your final wishes, they may need more information, like your financial or personal documents. As you prepare your Will, you can gather and store these documents in a binder where they’re easily accessible.
Here are several important documents to prepare now to make your executor’s duties easier:
- Birth and/or death certificates. In addition to your own birth certificate, this includes the birth certificates of minors or dependents involved in the Will. These documents can be crucial for the executor to gain access to your assets.
- Marriage licenses and/or divorce certificates. Any current or past significant other may be involved in your Will’s execution. These documents can clear up potential misunderstandings or disputes.
- Deeds and titles to property. Property may include personal or commercial real estate as well as vehicles.
- Mortgage information. Include the details of any debts, including mortgages.
- Insurance policy information. Include your life insurance policy’s details as well as a list of beneficiaries.
- List of all bank accounts. In addition to the account number and the name of the bank or credit union, include online access information if available.
- Investment portfolios. Provide your policy information, the name of the institutions, designated beneficiaries, account numbers, and account information to access your investments.
- Funeral plans and burial plot information. Decide on your cremation or burial preference so your executor doesn’t have to make the difficult decision for you.
- Contact information for your professional advisors. Even when you’re well prepared, your executor will likely still have questions or need advice. Give your executor the contact information for the professional advisors overseeing your assets such as your lawyer, insurance agents, accountants, and/or financial advisors.
Update plans after significant life events
A Will is never set in stone until you’ve passed away. When you’re alive, treat your Will as a living document that updates and grows with you. Whenever you have a significant milestone, update the Will to reflect any changes in assets or updated information such as insurance policies or professional advisors. Common milestones include births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, or the death of any currently listed beneficiaries.
Organize your finances
When creating your estate plan, make notes of all your assets. When you pass, your executor will first need to use those assets to pay off any remaining debts and taxes.
Once all the debts and taxes are taken care of, the executor can distribute any remaining assets among your chosen beneficiaries. Make it easy for them to avoid disputes or arguments over who gets what by giving them the answer while you’re still around.
Work with an experienced attorney to draft your estate planning documents
There are many factors that go into setting up the executor of your Will for success. The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor has more than 20 years of experience in helping Virginia residents plan and prepare everything they need to make their executor’s duties go smoothly.
Set up a free consultation today to let us guide you through the process of ensuring that both you and your executor are prepared with all the resources you both need to carry out your final wishes.