Congratulations. You are one of the 44% of Canadians that has a valid Will (May 2012 LawPRO® survey). You have chosen your executor who has attained the age of majority and is of sound mind. However you forgot to mention:
1. That you named him as your executor (or co-executor)
This happens. Nothing like catching your best friend or long-lost cousin off-guard. Most people will rise to the challenge but an executor has the right to renounce the position before taking on any tasks. Co-executors must agree unanimously or by majority rule depending on the wording of the Will. Consider if they can get along.
2. The location of your Will
The most common places to find a Will are in a filing cabinet, at the lawyer’s office or in a safety deposit box. But they have also been found in the freezer, taped under a dining table, a drawer bottom, between mattresses, in the inside pocket of a jacket and in a car’s glove compartment. If you keep your Will in a safety deposit box your executor will need to know how to gain access. You do not need to give your executor your Will but you really must tell her where it is.
3. Where to find other important documents (and your passwords)
Most items with a named beneficiary (life insurance) can be paid out quickly. Deeds, financial documents and birth certificates will also need to be found. Many of us pay bills online – some accounts will need to be cancelled and some will need to be maintained. Your home computer, tablet and smartphone may have family photos, email addresses and other contact information. Your executor needs to be able to find your usernames and passwords.
4. That there were things you wanted that were not in your Will
Your Will becomes a public document after probate. There may be items that you wish to give privately or give instructions on little things that do not go into Wills. You can write this out in a “letter of instruction” to your executor – a private document which can be updated as often as you wish. Since it is not part of your Will it is not legally binding but it can be a very useful tool for your executor.
5. That you had sold or given away items that were in your Will
Downsizing. Decluttering. Divesting. All mean the same thing when it comes to your “stuff”. Moving into smaller accommodations means that you cannot fit everything in. Decluttering and divesting are ordered purges. Decisions need to be made and items that were intended to go to someone can occasionally be sold. If the executor cannot find something after diligent searching he must file an affidavit with the court to that fact.
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Your executor may have questions for you. Sit down together to go through what you have in mind – you don’t need to get into detail. The executor’s duties begin with your funeral and end after the final distribution of your estate. This can take a year or more. Help your executors as much as you can – they are your representatives.