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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Too overwhelmed by grief to be an effective executor? See a trust company.

So you've been named the executor, and your loved one has passed away. Though you told your loved one you'd be willing to act as executor, and you still are willing, the shock and grief are making it impossible for a you to handle the role of executor. All you want to do is shut the door and process the overwhelming feelings of loss.

All of the calls and queries of (rightfully) impatient beneficiaries just add to the stress when you're already suffering. Focusing on legal and financial matters may be beyond you even though you know you're supposed to be handling the probate and the accounts and the paperwork.

You're not alone. Not at all. This is more common than you might think.

Recently I received a heartfelt note from a reader of this blog who was in this position and found it impossible to deal with her executrix duties. Here is her note:

"I must admit I am/was a horrible Executrix as I was too depressed to deal with my mom's estate and took a long time (almost a year) before I finally got a lawyer to work on things and probate the will for us and now I am getting anxious over not filing final tax returns on time and dealing with what the repercussions will be. My best advice is for people to see a lawyer asap and relieve some of the stress, because as I found out, waiting causes bigger headaches."

There's no question that waiting causes bigger headaches.

While this reader suggests seeing a lawyer right away, I have another solution that might well be even better. Why not ask a trust company to do the executor work for you? You would still be the executor and have final say on everything, but someone else would do all the legwork. The trust company would do the inventory, write letters, pay bills, sort out and sell the house, apply for probate, deal with all the paperwork, transfer shares and bonds, get appraisals, file the tax returns, and, best of all, communicate with the beneficiaries to let them know what's happening.

Your involvement would be as much or as little as you want it to be. You can have a trust company take over the whole estate or only parts of it.

In addition to having the work taken off your plate, you would have the peace of mind that the work is being done efficiently and correctly by people with experience. You would also be relieved of all of those calls and emails from the beneficiaries trying to get you to hurry up.

While you may not realize it, you would also be saving the estate a lot of money by having it administered by a trust company rather than a lawyer. Trust company fees seem to be a bit of a mystery to the general public, but you can always have a free sit-down session with someone to talk about what kind of help you want, and what that would cost. If you want the trust company to do the whole estate for you, the fee would be based on a percentage of the estate.

You may be wondering whether the estate you have to work on is "big enough" for a trust company. I often hear that comment, as people somehow think that an estate has to be in the millions of dollars to interest a trust company, which isn't the case. An estate can be as small as $250,000 depending on the trust company. When you consider the value of houses these days, most estates will be at least $250,000.

I work at a major trust company and have plenty of materials about trust companies stepping in to help with estates, which I can mail or email on request. I can also give the name, phone and email address of trust officers across Canada who can speak to you one-on-one about how they can assist you with an estate you may be struggling with. Just let me know by comment or email if you want this information.

Have you ever thought "there must be an easier way"? Well, maybe this is the easier way you've been looking for.


  1. Are you saying the law professors who dared to engage with the opinion and scrutinize it on their blogs were mainly showing off and trying to further our careers? Are you saying that ordinary people who don't read law reviews and who are trying to understand current events shouldn't have the benefit of law professors helping them understand an important new case.

    Law Articles

    1. Hmm. Nope, I'm not saying that, or anything remotely like that. And how you made that leap in logic, I'll never know. Seriously, are you sure you read my post?



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