Andrew Brown writes regularly on the subject of being an executor and the difficulties that come with the role. The following is his personal response to an article published in the Financial Post on September 20 2022. An edited version of this has been submitted to FP as a letter to the editor. Brown Lawyers shares the full length version here, along with a link to the original article, for your consideration.
RE: Financial Post Sep 20 “Being an Executor can be time-consuming and expensive at a time of great grief.” Amy Legate-Wolfe.
I believe there is an undeniable benefit to remind the public that being an executor is a difficult job and it is certainly not an honour. This article, and similar ones, find their way into the personal finance section annually in many publications.
The content is spot on. Being an executor is a lot of work that comes during a very challenging time in most people’s lives. It also comes with no help or training. Being an executor requires a lot of time and focus, and involves a great deal of emotion and effort. And, unfortunately, it rarely comes with Thank You cards.
As a professional advisor with 12-years of experience in dealing with the human death experience, I believe our culture has conflated the job of legal representative for a deceased person with a position of honour, likened to a ceremonial role; reserved for the most trusted, intelligent and dutiful people in our lives. Articles such as these are helpful reminders that being an executor comes with many obligations and responsibilities that demand a lot of effort to avoid the liability that comes with the role. This includes communications with family, friends or charities that may not be patient or graceful as they wait for the individual to complete their work.
I believe there is a giant hole in the media coverage of this common issue. This article correctly indicates that it is helpful for a family member to take responsibility for the management of a parents’ finances before they die. Can we please extend that thought? Is it really the responsibility of the child to prepare themself? Where is the responsibility of the deceased to make sure that their family is prepared? Did the deceased’s actions demonstrate accountability for those to whom they have given jobs, or to the living in general?
Further, where is the consideration by parents about how their death will be experienced by others? Where is the compassion?
Instead, every article focuses on solving the problem of the “horrible Executor job”, not by solving but by hiring a bank or a lawyer, writing off the next one to two years of your life, and hoping you don’t get sued.
The executor experience has not changed in 1000 years. It’s always been horrible and it always will be if we continue to treat the experience the same. Instead, what if we all took the responsibility to plan and prepare our families better? What if we displayed some compassion for ourselves and the living by anticipating how people will react, and what they will expect, want and need after our inevitable death? How about creating a simple list of assets as a way to start?
One of the great things about being human is our ability to learn. “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.” Death is inevitable. The suffering of our family’s experience is not. With planning, responsibility, and compassion, every person has the ability to create a better ending.