Even simple Estates have a variety of activities that take varying amounts of time to complete. Much of the work is detail-oriented and very often requires multiple activities and repeated follow-up to complete.
Among the first things an Executor must do is to take control of the Estate. Doing that means knowing exactly what the Estate is comprised of. Like most people, when we (my sister and I are Co-Executors) began dealing with our parent’s Estate, we really had limited knowledge. We did have a general idea about the major assets and knew about some of the smaller things like subscriptions.
It took us about a day before we decided that we needed to have a plan – just doing things as they came to mind was too hard to keep track of. We started a spreadsheet to record the things we were doing, what action we had taken and what next steps were. That spreadsheet quickly moved to multiple spreadsheets – one for each type of asset and/or activity – with timelines for completion of stages of activities like selling the home and all the activities that lead up to being able to do that. We also started tracking costs progress and challenges we were encountering.
Because of our work experience and education, we quickly and naturally slipped into using that project management approach to handling our responsibilities. Doing so made our lives easier and kept the work moving forward.
Being Co-Executors has some real downsides. But it also has some real upsides and both of us have felt that our complementary skills and having another person to share the responsibility and work has far outweighed the downsides. Being an Executor in today’s world requires a variety of types of knowledge (see our blog Executor …Not Really That Tough) and skills. The following graphic identifies the skills associated with being a Project Manager. Over the last couple of years, we have needed these skills to carry out our responsibilities.
We have often joked (using our needed humour) about why our parents chose us for this role. At moments when it has been frustrating and demanding, we have thought it was because they were getting even with us for our teenage transgressions or they liked our siblings more. In reality, I think they asked us to take on this responsibility because they believed that together we had the combination of necessary skills along with the knowledge needed to carry out the work.
That humour carries on – as I am dealing with estate taxes, I am thinking it is because they thought I needed to improve my skills in conflict management, politics and negotiating!