When asked to be an executor and given the responsibility of managing somebody’s estate, many people are flattered. They believe it’s an honour like being asked to be a godparent. But Debbie Stanley, CEO and Senior Estate Administrator at ETP Canada, a firm that assists executors with administering an estate says, “That is a common misconception. In reality for today’s executor, think of it as a full-time job.”
There is no school to learn about being an executor and executors often don’t give their role much thought until a death has happened. People assume they can gather necessary information online. But Stanley warns that the internet can take you down the wrong path.
For example, you may assume that the information you collected refers to being an executor in Ontario, Canada but it turns out it’s referring to Ontario, California. Stanley says, “Being an executor can be overwhelming and confusing. It can be intimidating to walk into a law firm or accounting office and not understand the terminology that you’re hearing for the first time.”
Estate planning is not easy but Executor Ready can help
ETP Canada offers the tools and resources you need to settle a person’s estate successfully by accessing an online video course called Executor Ready. Families can watch the videos at their leisure to learn more about the executor’s role and what to expect.
Stanley says, “It’s an introductory course that will allow you to have more productive conversations with your lawyer. You’ll know what the professionals are talking about, why they’re asking you certain questions, and the importance of having certain documents in place.”
Executor Ready will take you from the first days of the estate to wrapping it up, in just over an hour and a half. It’s divided into 10 modules with each module featuring short videos on a specific theme such as how to valuing the assets, estate administration, probate, and taxes.
A common misconception is that estate administration is easy but Debbie Stanley warns, “It’s not that simple and there is significant liability placed on the executor, which is why they should take the role quite seriously and go through the road map of being an executor. It should be treated like a job that they’ve been hired to do.” By the end of the course the executor will be familiar with the tips, tricks, and traps to watch out for.
Choosing an executor
When deciding on an executor, many people automatically choose their children. But children aren’t necessarily the best fit.
Executor Ready shows people what executors will be facing in managing the estate. It gives them a better idea of who is best suited for the job. Perhaps after reviewing what the role entails, families will choose differently and appoint a professional such as Debbie Stanley, friends or a different family member not previously considered.
Stanley says, “The online course helps put things into perspective. I think many people often name somebody and then don’t consider what happens after their death. We should be thinking about what the executor will be dealing with once we’re gone.”
People who are updating their wills and estate plans can even consider gifting the course to their chosen executor as a form of “training” for when the time comes.
Avoid the pitfalls
One major pitfall is distributing money to beneficiaries before finding out what debts and taxes are owed. Debbie Stanley says, “An executor may feel badly and want to get the money out to the family as quickly as possible but they shouldn’t distribute money without following the required steps and consulting with professionals. They may give out too much money and then what do they do when it comes time to pay the debts?"
Executor Ready shows people there’s a flow to the estate administration process. Stanley points out, “It’s more than managing the estate and handing out a cheque at the end. An executor needs to document everything that has happened and account for every dollar with explanations, receipts, and bank statements. Many people are surprised by that.”
A common response from people who’ve taken the Executor Ready course is that they wished they’d taken it sooner or at least at the start of the estate administration process. Debbie Stanley says, “Even lawyers have gotten back to us and said the Executor Ready program reduced the time it takes to explain basic terminology and facts to clients because they are better informed. I think many people have found the education on being an executor very helpful.”
Executor Ready is not meant to be legal advice but rather executor training for the first days on the job.