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Simple Ways to Make Your Executor’s Life Easier

Posted on: June 21, 2019

We all understand the importance of ensuring your personal and financial affairs are in order, especially as you get older. Choosing the right executor of your estate is a big decision because of the great amount of time, energy, emotion, and attention to detail that the role demands. This isn’t to say, however, that you can’t pre-emptively organize your business and personal matters to make your executor’s life much easier. Here, I have compiled a list of simple ways that you can help prepare your executor.

Leave an explicit letter of guidance. While we all understand the importance of having a Will, a letter of guidance can serve as an incredibly helpful document that can provide explicit direction to your executor, as well as ensure that your final wishes are fulfilled. A letter of guidance can provide a detailed account on where all your assets are located and how you would like them to be allocated. It may include some of the following: contact information for designated beneficiaries, property/other asset information, important document and account locations and numbers (i.e. pensions, RRSP, TFSA, partnership documents, property deeds, insurance policies, property tax records, birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, etc.). This thoughtful letter will provide a detailed framework for which your executor may begin dealing with your affairs.

Get your documents in order. Now that you have a document that outlines your assets, important documents, and account information, make sure that they are actually where you say they are!

Take a look at your beneficiary designations and ensure that they updated with the proper recipients, accounting for ex-spouses and previous individuals who may have since passed away. When you know who you want to be the recipients of certain accounts and assets, you may also make some of your personal and financial accounts joint, so the transfer of assets upon death is an easier process. Since Canada has no death tax or inheritance estate tax, the government can only take taxes owing from your estate, and your children will be protected from inheriting your outstanding debts. By setting up joint accounts or proactively transferring assets, your estate can also be sheltered from hefty taxation, or at least have that tax deferred. To learn more about taxation of your estate at death, click here.

Get hard copies of all documents and put them in a safe place, like a safety deposit box. Don’t forget to back up any digital materials into hard drives, as well. Ensure you assemble all keys and codes to your home, mailboxes, safes, and lock boxes so that your executor can actually access everything.

Ensure that your executor doesn’t feel alone in this process. Compile a list of all important legal and professional contacts, such as the lawyer who drafted your Will, tax preparer, financial advisor, personal accountant, among others, so they may have professional help when dealing with your estate.

Designate items of sentimental value. While allocating highly valued assets (i.e. your house) to your beneficiaries is undeniably important, most tensions and arguments among friends and family members actually arise surrounding the allocation of smaller items of greater sentimental value. Try to compile a list of possessions that you deem to have sentimental value and assign people that you would ideally like to receive them. This could be anything from your special watch, to your collection of favorite books. This also gives you the chance to ensure that everyone you love has a little piece of you with them.

Leave funeral wishes. You can ease the emotional strain of your friends and family members by leaving your funeral wishes. If possible, as well, it is a good idea to leave some cash to pay for the funeral arrangements, as well. By doing these two things, the question of who is expected to pay for the funeral will be answered, the financial burden on your friends and family will be alleviated, your final wishes will be respected, and your loved one will be focus on celebrating your life.

Being an executor takes a great deal of time, energy, and organization. The person you decide to trust with managing your estate carries a lot of responsibility on top of the already difficult grieving process. By being organized, thorough, and following some of the previously mentioned tips, you can be an active part of your estate planning and make your executor’s life easier. If you have any specific questions regarding estate tax implications, please do not hesitate to contact one of our highly knowledgeable financial planners.