No one wants to think about the end of their senior’s life, but the fact of the matter is, it’s bound to happen. It can be especially hard on the senior’s grown children, though when it comes to letting go of a loved one, there’s nothing easy about it for anybody. After the initial arrangements have been made, and your senior is finally at peace, there comes the inevitable task of putting their last affairs in order. And if you are your senior’s estate executor, you know that means you have a long list of tasks to accomplish.
What is an estate executor?
Simply put, the executor of an estate is someone named as such in a will. It is this person’s responsibility to see that the details of the will are carried out, and that the deceased’s last wishes are respected. It is also their job to handle any of the financial consequences of the person’s death, including the payment of debts and the distribution of assets.
What are an estate executor’s duties?
The specific duties you may have as an estate executor will depend upon your loved one’s particular circumstances. However, in general, you’ll find that the following fall under your purview:
- Obtain the death certificate, publish the obituary, and arrange the funeral.
- Collect any outstanding benefits the deceased is owed (for instance, Social Security checks, veteran’s benefits, wages, pensions, and insurance or legal settlements).
- Organize and value the deceased’s personal effects.
- Ensure appropriate belongs and assets go to designated family members, or arrange the sale of assets and disbursement of proceeds to the family.
- File any outstanding tax returns the deceased may have.
- Keep track of duties in progress, or date completed.
Should you become your senior’s estate executor?
There is no quick and easy answer to whether or not you should become your senior’s estate executor; ultimately the decision will be up to them, not you. But the following are some things to consider if your senior is considering you for the role:
- You should have good control over your own legal and financial affairs. It goes without saying that if you have difficulty handling these areas in your own life, you may not be the ideal candidate to handle someone else’s.
- You should have excellent organizational skills. Being an estate executor requires a great deal of paperwork, possible meetings, timelines, and more. Although this isn’t anything a reasonably diligent and intelligent person can’t handle, it may be overwhelming to someone who’s never done it before.
- You should be a patient individual. Depending on the financial and legal complexities that the senior left behind, it can take years to close an estate. Make sure you have the available time to commit to your role.
- You should know how to handle disputes and work well with others. They say, “Where there’s a will, there’s a relative.” In other words, arguments between family members, survivors, and beneficiaries may occur, and you need to know how to handle them while maintaining the deceased’s last wishes.
Please note that being an estate executor is not a secretive roll. On the contrary; you should be very open and transparent about the work you’re doing. The more the survivors know about the deceased’s wishes and distribution of assets, the less likely confrontations will occur. Of course, you won’t be able to avoid all of them, but a little prevention goes a long way.
Being an estate executor is a big responsibility
Be aware that, just like supporting your senior in other end-of-life decisions, becoming an estate executor should not be taken lightly. It is a big job and a big responsibility. However, should you and your loved one decide that you are the right person for this position, know that it is a profound way to honor them and their memory. It may just be the greatest gift you can give your senior – one beyond even death itself.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.