My observations reveal most people choose a trusted family member or close friend to be the executor of their will. We choose an individual that we trust to carry out our final directions on what to do with our property after we pass on, but what do we do to ensure that they can complete the task with minimal effort on their part?
It is the executor’s job to complete the tasks outlined in the will. These usually include identifying and gathering all of the assets of the deceased, determining the liabilities, paying the liabilities off, closing or closing any automatic payments from their bank accounts, cancelling credit cards and closing charge accounts, protecting assets such as ensuring the heat is kept on in their vacant home, returning or safekeeping important documents such as passports, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates, filing and paying their income taxes, paying for their funeral, identifying the beneficiaries and finding where they reside, and ultimately distributing the property to those beneficiaries as the will instructs.
Here are some ideas on how you can make your executor’s tasks easier to complete. My recommendation is to review these tasks annually so that the information is always relatively current and not more than a year out of date.
Make sure your executor knows where they can obtain a copy of the will. Keep the names, addresses and phone numbers of your beneficiaries current.
Keep a folder or binder that contains a comprehensive list of your assets and liabilities. It should list and have the title for all the real property you own; a recent statement for each bank account, investment accounts for your RRIFs, RRSPs, TFSAs, cash or margin accounts, with a contact name, number, and address for each; copies of life insurance policies; copies of share certificates of private corporation investments and publicly traded investments not held in brokerage accounts; list of valuables such as jewellery, art, coin, stamp or memorabilia collections with their costs and where they are; copies of a monthly or annual statement for your mortgages, various credit cards, lines of credit, charge accounts, private loans,; copies of the bills of sale or insurances for vehicles, boats, RVs, trailer etc. that must be registered; and information on any prepayment of funeral services. Combinations or keys for safes, cash boxes, and safety deposit boxes need to be identified and available to your executor at your passing.
While the above list is extensive, depending on your situation there may be more information required. If you keep this current and in a known location, your executor’s task becomes less daunting.
You should discuss your will with your executor so they have an opportunity to ask questions and clearly understand what the directives in your will. If you change your will you should keep the executor informed of the changes so they are not surprised.
Consider talking to your beneficiaries and letting them know what you have bequeathed them. Occasionally we get it wrong. If you have a family heirloom that you assume all of your children would want a brief discussion may reveal that only one or possibly none of them want that item you hold so dear. It would be better to identify who actually wants some of the items we have and bequeath it to them or give it to them while you are still alive.
A more recent issue that has emerged is what to do with your social media accounts. Do you want your executor to have access to your email, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Snapchat, Instagram, Google and other electronic accounts? Keeping a list of what accounts you have and what you would like to happen to those accounts after your passing is important information to provide to your executor.
I doubt that any of us like to ponder our own demise. However, asking a trusted family member or friend to be our executor and then fail to provide easy access to required information would not be very nice to someone who has agreed to help us.
For more information please consult with your professional advisors.