Your executor is the person or organisation who is responsible for carrying out your wishes as set out in your will, after you have passed away.
The role of executor may be an honour, but it can also be an enormous task, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. You can make your executor’s job easier by gathering key information and making it available to them.
Where do I start?
The best place to start is with making a list. A one-stop-shop for all the important information your executor will need to fulfil their duties.
- Key professionals and advisers who will be able to help or need to be advised that you’ve passed away – lawyer, GP, specialists, employer, financial planner, accountant
- Key documents and where to find them – will, tax returns, death benefit nominations within your super, trust documents, birth certificate, marriage certificate, citizenship documents, divorce documents
- Your assets – bank accounts, super, investments, property, vehicles, funeral bonds, safe deposit boxes
- Your income streams – super, annuities, Centrelink or Department of Veterans Affairs
- Your credit cards
- Your identities, which should be cancelled as soon as possible to prevent identify fraud – driver’s licence, passport.
Documenting all this information will be of enormous assistance to your executor. But remember, the details may be dynamic, and you should review and update the information from time to time.
Have you thought about online identities?
Online identities have become a huge part of our lives. If you’d like to ensure that a trusted person can manage or access your digital footprint after you die, consider compiling a comprehensive list of your online accounts, logins, and unlock codes and sharing this list with a trusted person, who may be your executor. This list would include:
- The unlock code for your mobile phone
- Social media logins (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
- Cloud-based software logins (e.g. Google Drive, iCloud)
- Account logins for online access
You could record this information on paper, or in a spreadsheet. Secure apps are available for storing access details. However you choose to keep this information, be sure to maintain it in a secure place, and either share it with your executor, or let him or her know where they can find it when they need it.
Attending to routine matters until the will is executed
Many bills and renewal notices are now received online or by email. If your Executor doesn’t have access to your email, they won’t be aware of notifications as they fall due.
Take, for example, your home and contents insurance. Did you know that your executor can be held legally liable if something happens to assets that are uninsured?
Compiling a list of regular billers and your billing cycle will help your executor ensure nothing is overlooked.
This list will likely include: insurances, utilities (electricity, gas), home maintenance services, pay TV, internet, telephone, council rates, memberships (e.g. gym, sports) and subscriptions (e.g. magazines, newspapers, TV/movie/music streaming services). A useful starting point for compiling a list will be to review your credit card statements, cheque books and bank statements for bill payments and direct debit payments.
And the more personal aspects
Are there specific people or organisations, outside of the professional service providers, that you’d like to be notified personally? This will be so much easier if your executor and / or your immediate family have a list to work through.
Wishes for health management and funeral arrangements
Is your family and/or your executor clear on your wishes with respect to organ donation, and health directives? Would you like to leave instructions for your funeral and burial? Perhaps you’d like to leave final thoughts and message for loved ones.
Now is the time to put pen to paper – it’s too late when we’re gone. Administering an estate can take more than a year of constant effort. Don’t make your executors task harder than it needs to be. Invest some time and effort now, and give yourself peace of mind that things will be take care of when you’re gone.
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