Executors Need to Use Blueprints

It can happen overnight – suddenly, you’re an executor.

You are put in charge of an estate. You have to probate a will. You need answers to your questions.

What is an executor supposed to do? What do good executors do first? As a Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law, I advise executors. I can tell you exactly what successful executors do. They follow a blueprint.

Every estate is different but the blueprint gives any executor a master plan. Here is an easy-to-follow blueprint to handle estate matters:

The Easy Executor Blueprint – Part 1

Part 1 – Protect Estate Assets

You need to take possession of valuables. This is the first step in my Executor Blueprint.

Valuables include identity documents like passports, credit cards or driver’s licenses. Remove valuable items from the deceased’s home. Secure digital devices like computers, laptops, tablets and cell phones. Read my related blog post about digital estates.

Confirm proper insurance is in place for cars, homes and valuables. Prepare a list of assets and debts with relevant details. These will be needed to calculate any provincial probate and federal income taxes. Begin recording every penny you collect or spend for the estate. It’s important that you keep track of this.

You may be doing detective work at this stage for days. At this point, it is important to realize you cannot distribute the estate.

You may need to obtain appraisals for estate properties. The provincial probate tax will require you list and provide values for the estate assets. Read my blog post about changes in the estate administration tax regime for Ontario.

Business assets, perishables and pets will require your immediate attention and protection. Don’t forget that jewelry, coin, stamp or other collections can mysteriously disappear. Arrange for safe and secure storage of all such valuables. Take photographs and videos of contents. This will be useful in establishing value and in case any items turn up missing later.

Keep your money separate from the estate’s at all times.

Hire an Estate Administration Lawyer

Not all lawyers are equal or have the same estate experience. You should obtain advice from lawyers involved with estate administration. An estate lawyer can explain your executor duties and deadlines.

Many lawyers do estate planning. Not all lawyers, however, have experience in administering estates and probating wills. An experienced estate lawyer can guide you and prepare a list of tasks with you.

Make sure you start off on the right foot.

Read more:
Executor’s Duty to Protect the Estate
Ontario Estate Trustees Need to See the Big Picture

About Ed Olkovich

I am Toronto estate lawyer, author and editor of Carswell’s legal guide, Compensation and Duties of Estate Trustees, Guardians and Attorneys. I am a Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts law. I have handled estate disputes and probate problems since 1978. © 2014