I have been an executor three times now. Twice the process was fairly easy and straightforward. The wills were clear as to intentions and documents were easy to find. The other one – well let’s just say if I never have to deal with that kind of administration hell again, not to mention the disgruntled beneficiaries, it will be too soon.

Related: The pitfalls of naming your children co-executors

Attempting to carry out someone’s wishes when they have passed away can be difficult when they are anything but clear. That’s why I have decided on the following steps to make things easier for those who must someday do the same for me.

4 End of Life Strategies Your Survivors Will Thank You For

1. Have an estate plan

Many people think if they have a will, their estate plan is complete, but there is more to it than that.

A good plan should be designed is such a way to:

  • Avoid the costs of probate. Many types of property, or forms of ownership, do not go through probate, e.g. jointly owned property, life insurance proceeds, assets with named beneficiaries, trusts.
  • Minimize estate taxes.
  • Make the will very clear with a detailed distribution strategy.

2. Prepay funeral expenses

It sounds a bit morbid to plan your own funeral, but it’s a kind thing to do for your next of kin. One reason to pre-pay for a burial plot or urn storage and the service now is that – if long years pass – there might not be money for a funeral, which leaves heirs in the position of having to pay for it themselves.

Since I’m a no-nonsense frugal type of person, I can make price comparisons and shop wisely – and, yes, cheap out. Heirs may not be emotionally ready, or have the time to do this. Plus, I don’t want them to be upsold into paying for a more lavish send-off than I may want.

3. Consider passing wealth to the next generation during your lifetime

It’s very likely I will spend and enjoy what I have accumulated, but once I have a clearer idea of how this retirement thing will pan out, I would like to assist my grandchildren financially in some way.

I could possibly assist with education costs, or help them buy their first home. Or, maybe smaller gifts such as a trip, or start them on the road to investing.

Related: Leave a legacy before the will is read

I would like to be able to see them enjoy it. I don’t want it to be too late to be of any real use to them once I’m gone.

4. Downsize your possessions

I have heard of people who hid items of value such as cash or jewelry, and forgot where they were hidden. Even if they are not hidden, sorting through a lifetime’s worth of possessions is a huge burden on heirs.

Some heirs simply use an estate sale service and let them deal with it. The risk here is that valuable items might get sold for less than they are worth, or keepsakes thrown away with old paperwork and household items.

It would be a wonderful idea to gift any items of high value such as jewelry to family members while you are still alive.

I plan to keep my belongings pared-down and organized (Editor’s note: Thanks, mom!).

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11 Comments

  1. Jane on November 8, 2017 at 5:33 am

    These are all great suggestions, even though some are hard work – especially the “downsize your possessions”! But, like you Marie, I’ve been an executor twice now (more to come), and some of this is really hard work for the executor. So, for those who are inclined to help out, get to it!!

    • boomer on November 8, 2017 at 10:23 am

      I agree, Jane. Unless you’ve been through it, you don’t realize how time consuming being an executor and winding down possessions can be. In all cases I was lucky (?) enough to be living in the same city. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if I lived in a different city or province.

  2. Mrs. Picky Pincher on November 8, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Yeeesssss. Pre-paying for funeral expenses is such a prudent thing to do. I remember helping my dad with the paperwork and funding for my mom’s funeral and it made the difficult situation so, so much worse. My grandpa also divided his assets to everyone before he passed, so there was zero confusion or fighting over who would inherit what. It was all very civil.

    • Judy Carter on November 8, 2017 at 8:30 am

      It is unbelieveable how family will treat one another out of greed. One family member will want to sell something that another finds to have a a lot of sentimental value

    • boomer on November 8, 2017 at 10:27 am

      @Mrs. Picky Pincher. I don’t think it’s that common any more to do pre-paid funerals, but when your survivors are already heartbroken, it’s hard to make these kind of decisions. In my one “bad” experience there weren’t even written instructions and the fights between burial and cremation were brutal – and that was just the start.

  3. brett on November 8, 2017 at 9:00 am

    I would add…..do Power of Attorneys so that if you are incapacitated prior to death your children can act on your behalf prior to death.

    If there is a safety deposit box empty it out prior giving the bank the death certificate. After that they may freeze it

    Update the appropriate forms, if required, for organ donation.

    Don’t be afraid to do the Probate process instead of using a lawyer. It is very straightforward. We bought a kit at Staples (for BC) and followed the directions.

    • boomer on November 8, 2017 at 10:17 am

      All good suggestions, Brett.

  4. Janet Bayer on November 8, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Great reminders. When my Dad passed, he had left an envelope in the safety deposit box that listed all his pertinent account information: pension, banks, credit cards, insurance…even cable and utility info. He had contact information as well.

    Made my life that much easier.

  5. Alan on November 8, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    A very timely post. I am now re-doing my will and enduring power of attorney as I had named my son, currently a resident of the US, as alternate executor and alternate attorney, and only recently learned that there are very severe adverse tax consequences in having a Canadian trust (my estate) deemed to be resident in the United States by virtue of naming a US resident as executor. Beware!!

  6. Cheryl on November 8, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    All good advice. Seeing as how you’ve been an executor perhaps you can help with my sort of off topic question. The executor to my father’s estate refused to take any kind of executor fee even though I really pushed him to do so. The estate is nearing the end of being settled and I’d like to get him a thank you gift. He’s financially well off. This is someone who’d I’d seen a few times growing up but not as an adult, so I have no idea of his hobbies, favorite restaurants, etc. He and his wife are elderly and probably don’t need any more stuff in their house. I’ve been thinking of a top notch gift basket that is delivered by the company, if nothing else they can give away the goodies to their family. I don’t want to go cheap but I don’t want to get anything that he’d suspect is too expensive and refuse. I’m thinking a $500 budget but most gift baskets don’t run more than $150 or so. I’ve thought about gift cards but don’t know for what, and suspect he might mail them back to me.

    • boomer on November 9, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Hi Cheryl. It’s not the cost that matters. A nice, thoughtful gift and card expressing your appreciation will likely be warmly accepted.

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