Top Tips for Executors

Being an executor of an estate can be a daunting and demanding task. If you are not adequately prepared, you can find yourself getting overwhelmed.

Here are some tips to help make the process a bit easier for yourself.

1)    Keep all your documents filed and organised

Making sure that your paperwork is always ready and on hand whenever you need them, could be your first and most important step. To those uninitiated this might seem like a trivial task but you could soon find yourself with a mountain of paperwork and with tight deadlines, the last thing you want is misplaced documents.

Have an agreement with the testator (the person making the will) regarding how and where they are going to store the documents such as the original will, deeds, partnership documents and insurance policies.

Good places to store the documents would be the testator’s home, a safety deposit box, safe or a solicitor’s office. The main consideration is that the place is secure and unlikely to be moved.

Extra copies can be held by either yourself or at the solicitor’s office.

2)    Make sure that jointly owned property and accounts are accessible

For testators who have spouses or civil partners, they would benefit from an easy transition of all key assets if the bank accounts, insurance policies and properties are made jointly accessible.

If done correctly, the process will greatly reduce the size of your estate that you have to manage upon the testator’s death.

It is also worth ensuring that any relevant business bank accounts are linked to possible business partners.

With the help of the testator, prepare a list of all the people and accounts and review them upon major life events such as marriage, divorce etc.

3)    Record any preferences

Although it might be a difficult topic to bring up, have a conversation with the testator about any funeral requirements that they may have.

Is it going to be a religious or humanist service? Would the testator prefer to be buried or cremated?

Such topics, while difficult to talk about now could become points of argument after death, this is why it important to write these wishes down in the will.

4)    Designate personal effects to specific beneficiaries

One important consideration to go over with the testator is to decide how certain items of high sentimental, but low monetary value are to be distributed. Such items are easily overlooked and can become a point of argument after the testator’s death. Assigning recipients to such items could save a lot of aggravation and conflict among the bereaved.

5)    Regularly review and amend documents

Many events can happen within a year, keeping all your documents and arrangements up to date is crucial to clarify how the assets are to be distributed. You can do this by using your computer or even smartphone to have an up to date record of any possessions which might have been sold, stolen or damaged and change the relevant documents as appropriate.

6)    Be aware of the testator’s online identity

Many aspects of our lives are increasingly being managed and monitored digitally, so if the testator dies the executor needs to be able to access a number of online accounts that the person may have kept.

Examples of accounts could include: PayPal, online banking, Ebay accounts, facebook, twitter and so on.

Sometimes the executor may even need to access e-mail accounts to discretely handle the electronic messages.