When some people finally get around to having their will prepared (testator), many times they decide to ask a relative to be their personal representative (executor). The process usually goes like this:
Testator: “Samson, I decided to update my will. Since you are my most responsible child, I would like you to be my personal representative.”
Executor: “Sure mom. Let’s hope we won’t have to deal with this for a very long time.”
The newly named individual often doesn’t consider the magnitude of what they’ve been asked to do and usually shrugs it off as something that won’t come up for awhile. What they discover much later is that serving as a personal representative is actually a lot of work.
The executor will have to spend many hours of their personal time marshaling the testator’s assets that include having the family home appraised, valuing bank and brokerage accounts, and paying off any final bills. And, this work often goes into overtime when the executor has to referee spats amongst the heirs. If mom didn’t specifically identify the individuals that will inherit her personal assets, Samson will have to value the assets and decide who gets what. Should his sister, Samantha, get the Picasso? Or should his brother, Samuel, get the Ford Pinto? What if Samuel doesn’t like his inheritance, but Samantha does? Be forewarned, executors have to deal with situations like this all the time.
How much time will it take to pack and move all of the personal property you have accumulated over the years? Now, consider doing this for a loved one who has recently passed on. Dealing with siblings and fairly distributing a lifetime of “stuff” can be both challenging and very time consuming. Although the above scenario involving a Picasso and Pinto is a little extreme, we have seen that it doesn’t take much to make a sibling angry if they do not feel that the division is fair… even if it is just grandma’s chipped china. Often there are memories and emotional ties to the personal property. Also, be forewarned that heirs can get frustrated when the appraisals come in under what they thought the family residence and art collection was worth. Perhaps the Picasso turns out to be a fake and Samantha no longer likes her inheritance.
So you’ve already said yes to a loved one’s executor request. We advise you to communicate as much as possible. Communication is absolutely the key to keeping everyone’s cool. If you keep the heirs informed about every part of the process, small disagreements might not explode into family feuds. On the other hand, you might want to suggest to your loved one that they choose a professional executor instead. A professional fiduciary can work on the estate daily, will keep everyone informed of the process, and be the referee if need be.