Someone you love and respect has asked you to be their executor. They, the testator, trust you to handle their estate once they're gone and to ensure that their final wishes are respected. It may feel like an honour, and it often is, but there is a lot more to estate administration than meets the eye.
Before you say yes, take some time to consider the implications and assess whether or not you are prepared to take on the role. When it comes to estate administration, knowledge is key and educating yourself can save you from considerable stress down the road.
You Can Say No
Being an executor isn't mandatory. In other words, if someone asks you to administer their estate, you have every right to refuse. Should you find yourself named as an executor after the testator has passed away, you still retain the right to refuse, provided that you have not dealt with any of the assets.
Estate Administration Takes Time
Even the most straightforward estates require time to administer. From start to finish, the process has the potential to last well over a year, even without complications. As an estate administer, you are legally obligated to carry out the process until completion which could mean a significant investment of time and energy on your part.
Estate Administration Can Be Stressful
Dealing with death is never easy. Adding the stress of handling the financial, legal, and personal matters of another person can make the process even harder to navigate. As an executor, you may find yourself grappling with situations you feel unprepared for.
Will interpretation disputes, asset ownership concerns, beneficiaries that are hard to track down... there are just some of the issues that can arise throughout the administration process.
Estates Can Get Complicated
Depending on the testator and the estate itself, the administration process has the potential to become very complicated, very quickly. In an ideal situation, everything will be clearly outlined in the will and all relevant documents and information will be easy to access.
Unfortunately, testators often fail to consider all of the details, leaving the administrator to pick up the pieces once they're gone. As an administrator, you may find yourself having to probate the estate, handle financial matters, deal with validity issues, and manage beneficiary expectations and conflicts on behalf of the deceased.
You Can Get Help
The good news is that with the right help, administering an estate does not have to be painful. While the average person likely has limited experience acting as an executor, the right lawyer has the type of skills, background, and experience that go a long way in simplifying the process.
For estates where legal issues or beneficiary disputes arise, getting legal support is non-negotiable. For seemingly straightforward estates, a legal advisor can help you take a proactive approach to avoiding potential complications and headaches.
At the end of the day, the decision to take on the role of estate administrator is yours. Being able to fulfill a loved one's final wishes can be a powerful experience, as long as you are informed and prepared.