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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Executor waits 10 months (so far) for someone to call and tell her what to do

I don't know who I feel the worst for in this reader's question. The executor who is in way over her head? Or the beneficiaries who have to rely on a completely unprepared executor?

"My grandfather passed away 10 months ago. My aunt is in charge of everything. She has not voiced anything to me and my sister other than "no one's contacting her and she's contacting a lawyer to see what's up" so my question is how do I go about finding out if I'm able to view his Will if I'm entitled to or not and where I would go to find it."

This is not the first time I've heard that executors are waiting for "someone" to contact them after a loved one has passed away. I have to wonder exactly who they think is going to contact them. If they are a family member and the executor named in the will, they know more about the situation than anyone.

This is startling, to say the least. Obviously the executor knows she is "in charge of everything" but it has taken her almost a year to realize that being in charge of everything might involve more than simply waiting to see if her phone rings and hoping that someone will show up and tell her what to do. The executor's passivity has already caused a significant delay. Also, the odds of some of the assets losing value or disappearing before the executor gets control of them is huge. In the last 10 months, has anyone looked after the deceased's house or vehicle? Has anyone paid for the funeral or insured the house or filed a tax return or notified Old Age Security? It seems unlikely.

Unfortunately, this executor's passivity could cause her a personal loss. She apparently has no idea that she carries personal responsibility for the assets of the estate. If it comes down to having to compensate beneficiaries for losses, saying "I didn't know I had to do anything" will not cut it.

I don't mean to sound overly harsh about executors in general. If I thought everyone knew how to handle estate matters, I wouldn't have been writing this blog for the last 10 years. Executors have a tough job and I am well aware of that. But executors like this one make things so much harder on themselves, and particularly on the beneficiaries.

For heaven's sake, if you're named as an executor in a will for someone who passes away, don't wait ten months to do something. Your responsibility starts right away. The beneficiaries and family members will be looking to you for answers, as they are in this case. If you don't want to do the job, you don't have to, but you do have to officially renounce it in writing before anyone else can take your place.

Doesn't the fact that people keep asking you what's happening with the estate give you an idea that you are supposed to know what's happening?

If you're going to "be in charge of everything" you have to actually step up to the plate. It doesn't have to be within days of the person's death, especially if it was someone very close to you, but don't let it go untouched for months. Go see a lawyer whenever you are puzzled by a legal document or legal obligation.


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