When my attorney told me I needed an executor for my will, I asked my youngest sister who lovingly accepted. I then decided to help her by providing information about the duties of the executor. Yikes! I was surprised by all I was asking my sister do to for me after I leave. Most sobering was the term “executor year”, used to describe how long the process typically takes.
I decided I needed to get organized and see what I could do now to help my sister. That process eventually led me to write down what I learned. The result was my book, Helping Your Executor Before You Leave, designed to help you get organized so you will have peace of mind knowing you have done something to ease the burdens of your executor.
I imagined being with my sister as she went through the steps of being an executor for me and I kept in mind one question; “What may I do to help?” I discovered that there are many things I can do now. My goal was to compose a letter with specific instructions for her.
I began my journey by imagining my sister learning of my passing. Since she lives in a distant state, she will need to travel to my home where she knows no one. She will need to get in my home, so she will need a key. While she is making plans to come, my plants (and pets if I had any) will need immediate care. How will she get around? Can she use my car? Where is it? Where are the keys? What can I do now? Who needs to be contacted? I not only need to tell her the contact information for important people – doctor, attorney, financial advisor, but most importantly, I need to tell her the plan, the order in which things need be done, and where to find things.
I needed to compile a list of names and contact information and I needed to have all my important papers organized in one place. This was a good start. Having all my papers in one place also provided an added benefit of having a ready-made grab-and-go bag in case of an emergency. Ultimately I produced an instruction letter that my sister could easily follow, then, at each step I wanted to see how I could help now. For example, I asked her to contact my life insurance companies to obtain the proceeds. I wrote the letters to the insurance companies, as she would have had to do. I provided all the information. I eventually compiled a set of assorted letters, put them on a thumb drive, now all she needs to do is insert the date on the letters, print and sign them. I addressed envelopes for all the letters and affixed a forever stamp. I noted which letters require a Certificate of Death.
My book includes a template of a generic letter anyone can use to help guide an executor through the process of cleaning up after you pass away. The only things needed are the specific details. Most importantly, this book provides suggestions for things you can do now, but the reader is welcome to do as little or as much as she likes. I have identified opportunities for one to help her executor, but what you decide to do is totally at your discretion.