An Executor’s specific priorities will be dependent on the deceased’s circumstances. Immediately after the death the Executor is responsible for arranging for the funeral if it has not already been planned and prepaid. However, the Executor may also be juggling supporting a surviving spouse and dependent children, locating and safeguarding assets and other important time-sensitive issues during the grieving period.
“Some people live quite private lives and they die unexpectedly and people don’t even know to look,” said Darren Jack, chairman of a task force for the Unclaimed Property Professionals Organization.
While no one likes to look into the mirror and face their own mortality, admitting its inevitability allows us to take steps to ensure our wishes are clear, understood, and carried out to the maximum extent possible, with the least cost. In other words, ensuring you have a clear, valid and effective will that articulates both the letter and spirit of your wishes, appointing an Executor who has both the skills and the time to carry them out, and providing your Executor with an inventory of your assets and obligations (including where they are located and how they can be accessed) are critical elements to achieving your wishes.
There is no legislation in Canada to govern an Executor’s responsibilities over a person’s digital footprint and assets. Each service provider sets the terms and conditions in the “Terms of Service” that you must “Accept” in order to obtain the service. When was the last time you read that in it’s entirety, if ever?
Getting Your Financial Affairs in Order differs from individual to individual. For many of us, however, there are stark similarities depending on your age, stage of life and a number of other factors.
Interestingly, in our experience the size or dollar value of an estate is not what determines how complex or difficult it will be to execute. Nor does the varying number of beneficiaries add complexity and therefore time and costs. The single biggest factor that adds cost, time, frustration and family discord is if someone does not have their financial affairs in reasonable order.
So some time ago, your mother, father, aunt, grandmother, or friend probably took you for a drink, looked you in the eye and asked you an important question: “Will you be the Executor of my estate?” You were flattered, and not knowing what to say or what it involves, said yes. You are a good son / daughter / or friend, but did you understand what you were getting yourself into?