In our business, Executor Assists, we have discovered several things. Many people have never made a will, or have not updated their wills and sometimes the chosen executor has died. Often people HAD NO IDEA that they were chosen to be an Executor for a friend.
If you discover that you are an Executor the first thing you need to do is carefully read the will. Your duty is to carry out the wishes of the person who has died – not what you “think” they wanted but what they have actually written. It is an enormous responsibility and even more so in Ontario with the probate tax. Although you may have a copy of the will, for some things you will need the original one. It could be in the residence, a safety deposit box or filed with the law firm that prepared it. We have copies of our wills and our lawyer has the original ones.
As an Executor it will be your responsibility to make funeral arrangements. Sometimes instructions are in the will and at times the person has prearranged and paid for what they want. If it will be an expensive funeral, make sure the money will be there to pay for it before you make a commitment. We have seen adult children surprised that the money was no longer there to pay for the lavish funeral they thought mom wanted and they had to pay for it themselves.
Many people say they want NO SERVICE. Discretion and wisdom will be needed in this situation. From what I have been told this is something you don’t have to follow. My mom told her husband that she wanted no service. I talked with him and explained how we needed the time to grieve the loss of her. We settled on a short grave-side service and simple refreshments for family and close friends at the family home.
Many funeral homes have a service which helps you to get the proper forms filled out. Sometimes there is a charge and other times the needed help is included in their fee.
There are many papers you will need. SOME ARE: birth certificate, marriage certificate (if applicable), life insurance policy, social insurance number, investment information, pension information, home or rental information, appraisals for art or jewelry, vehicle registration(s), banking information, contact information for beneficiaries, current receipts for tax purposes….
We suggest that you put any papers aside until you have the needed time to go through them carefully.
Start a notebook and keep close records of what you do in case there are any questions from the beneficiaries. Put a date and the time it took. We have seen it take an hour to deal with a phone cancellation.
Keep track of any expenses you have had to fulfill your duties.
Executor Assists is the “hands on help.” We search for papers, have items appraised, deliver or ship items to beneficiaries, put items in storage, have locks changed, prepare homes for sale, arrange estate sales, deliver to charities or landfill..thus aiding Executors in fulfilling their duties.