Join the 10,000+ executors who have downloaded our free 12-step blueprint to probate: download yours here

What To Do When a Loved One is Dying

A step-by-step guide to beginning estate executorship

Posted on September 9, 2021 by Luisa Rollenhagen
Beloved man in hard life situation

There are few experiences in life more overwhelming, stressful, or confusing than settling the affairs of a loved one who’s passed away. Being the executor of an estate is an important responsibility, especially if the estate is in a state of disarray. Disorganization can compound an already traumatic situation.

The good news is that you are not alone in navigating the uncertainty. Founded in 2020, ClearEstate’s mission is to simplify the duties associated with estate executorship and help guide clients through the probate process as efficiently as possible.

On average, the estate settlement process can take up to about 400 person-hours, and over about 12 to 18 months, to complete. Often, executors must independently source fragmented and costly settlement solutions. Most are not equipped to deal with this process, which is why a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution for executorship is so overdue in the bereavement industry.

Subscribe to our blog today

We regularly share relevant information about wills and estates.

Your Estate Executor’s Checklist

ClearEstate is committed to promoting transparency and empathy throughout the estate settlement process — one step at a time.

To help get you started, have a look at ClearEstate’s complementary Estate Executor’s Checklist.

This easy-to-read, comprehensive guide written and researched by our leadership team details all the tasks that every executor should be aware of prior to and upon the death of a loved one. Here’s a quick overview of what to expect as you get the process started.

It Pays to be Organized

Be prepared for a fast, even dizzying start to your executorship.

While all adults should consider estate planning (more on that in a moment), the settlement process upon the death of a loved one will feel a bit overwhelming even if an estate plan is in place — but fear not, since this is what ClearEstate does best.

To start with logistical tasks that are most obvious: things like making funeral arrangements, sending notifications of death (formal and informal), and canceling leases or subscriptions must be dealt with swiftly.

Once it’s time to dig into the paperwork, first and foremost, you’ll need to know the location of your loved one’s will if they have one. The will is essential to the entire estate settlement process; without it, an estate is subject to unnecessary costs and delays. Be sure you know its physical location, and ensure it’s up-to-date.

This also applies to all records relating to an estate. Know the location of important supporting documents such as deeds, insurance policies or partnership agreements. Consolidating this information will make the task of assessing the value of assets much easier. Having copies of original documents is always preferable.

If someone plans on transferring assets to a spouse, then it may be wise to set all accounts as joint in addition to making sure that properties and titles are in both names (if this isn’t already the case). That way, the transferring of assets is sure to go a lot more smoothly.

It Pays to Have an Estate Plan

The benefits of planning ahead cannot be overstated.

We’ve created a comprehensive checklist that breaks down the process and ensures you’re covering all your bases. You can consult the Ultimate Estate Planning Checklist here.

You’ll have to account for absolutely everything you own, and we’ll explain the basics here. But if you’re trying to convince someone else to plan their estate, it’s best to be sensitive and plan that conversation, too.

As we say at ClearEstate, no one likes to talk about dying. It’s estimated that at least half of Canadians don’t have a will, so we understand how difficult it can be to initiate these talks.

Our suggestion (for adults) is to start by planning your own estate, even if you feel you have few assets to consider. You can then speak about your experience with family members, and hopefully convince them to follow suit.

You can tell them that planning one’s estate is a gesture of empathy; it is supporting your loved ones at a time in the future when you will be unable to be there for them. It is relieving them of a burden that for estate executors especially can feel like the most insurmountable task ever.

The last thing anyone should have to do while grieving is scrambling to locate papers and forms that are required to access accounts, assets, and so on.

Whether you are planning or settling an estate, prepare a detailed inventory of all financial accounts, including investment, chequing or savings accounts or safety deposit boxes. This includes account numbers and key contacts with the corresponding institutions.

It’s also worth noting that in 2021, estates are vastly different with digital assets being the new norm. Digital assets are the new norm, and these must also be accounted for. This can include cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, social media accounts, PayPal accounts, Air Miles, an online business — these things have intrinsic value and must be secured before they are lost, or worse, hacked.

You are also encouraged to appoint an executor in advance, or provide options for your family as instructed in your will. You’ll have to inform the would-be executor(s) about your assets and make sure they can access the relevant information when needed, either digitally within a platform like ClearEstate, physically in a secure location, like a safety deposit box, or through a third party, like a lawyer.

But it’s not all about dollars and cents.

An estate can also include items of sentimental value, such as a cherished heirloom or keepsake. In many cases, these items can be a source of conflict between family members.

To mitigate tension, communicate: talk to your family, try to build consensus over who wants what, and gently persuade them to get organized with estate planning. Creating a family inventory of assets and figuring out where those assets will end up goes a long way in avoiding confusion, conflict and heartache down the road.

Questions about how to begin your Executor Checklist? Contact us at info@clearestate.com.