COVID-19 Makes Being an Executor More Difficult
The average executor requires 570 hours to settle the estate.* This figure represents efforts made under the best of circumstances. During COVID-19, an executor’s life is now more difficult, but exercising some prudence and common sense will help them get through this time.
The Duties Are the Same, But Execution Is Different
COVID-19 has made it more difficult for executors to handle their duties with regard to the estate. Executors still have the same duties, but the way in which they discharge these duties may be different. Most of all, they need to be careful and transparent.
One of the biggest things that you are tasked with as the executor during COVID-19 is safeguarding the assets of the estate. This was even more difficult during the early stages of the pandemic when stock market prices were wildly gyrating. You must be even more careful about tending to the assets since you are tasked with making prudent financial decisions. If you find yourself unable to handle the volatility of the stock market on your own, it is best to speak with a financial advisor who has the expertise. Executors can find themselves liable for losses under certain circumstances as a fiduciary, so prudence is the best course of action. The last thing that an executor would want is to have to pay out of their own pocket when they are trying to get too fancy in managing the estate’s assets.
Executors Must Be Patient
Another tip for you as an executor is that you will need to be patient in the settlement process. If you were able to close the estate quickly before COVID-19, things will take more time now. For example, it may be harder to sell a home because of a slow real estate market and the fact that social distancing makes it more difficult to show the home. In addition, it may be harder to summon the necessary people for help. The timeline for settling the estate may take longer as issues deemed non-essential are being pushed off right now.
You can be proactive during this time by planning for what you may do to settle the estate when life returns to normal. There is nothing to say that you cannot develop a plan of action even if you cannot do anything right now. You can also use the delay to help yourself get better organized for when you can act.
Communicate With the Beneficiaries
Another helpful idea for executors is to make sure that you stay in touch with the beneficiaries during coronavirus to keep them informed of what is happening. Better communication helps pave the way for harmonious relations and reduces the chance that there is friction. The beneficiaries would understand that there are delays and that this is a fluid time, but they would appreciate the communication from the executor. You should also explain to them your plans for the estate and the steps that you are taking to preserve the assets of the estate during a difficult economic time.
The more you can explain to the beneficiaries, the more transparent you will seem. This lessens that chance that there may be litigation. When things are not happening with the estate is when beneficiaries’ suspicion can spiral out of control. It is best to talk to them to keep them informed to avoid a lawsuit.
One of the best things that you can do as the executor of the estate is to get help as you need it. Many executors try to go it alone when it comes to their duties. However, the current environment is challenging to navigate, and you may need extra help. This means that you should consult with an estate planning lawyer to learn more about your options.
To learn more about how you should handle your duties as an executor during COVID-19, contact a Hackensack, NJ, estate planning lawyer with the Knee Law Firm at (201) 996-1200. We offer online appointments for your initial consultation.