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More Than One Executor Needed To Avoid Having Your Life Trashed

If your executor is the only person who knows where your will is kept, there may not be much point in having a will. The person you choose to be your executor may, in fact, not be your executor when the chips are down.

Jane’s story is by no means rare. She was in a strange city, without contacts, there to wind up the affairs of her great grandfather who had died recently. As his last living relative, she’d had little contact with him. Her father had visited him several times each year, but he had died shortly before the older man.

Her great grandfather, 92 when he died, had lived alone, one floor up, in a small apartment. He had been an accountant. In his careful accountant’s way, he had bills and receipts dating back 50 years. But Jane could find no will. She was sure there would have been one, but she was also sure her late father had been the only one to know where it was and what the old man’s wishes were.

She had just three days off work to settle his estate. She had never done anything like it before and didn’t know where to begin. She didn’t know if there were bank accounts, other than the small one she discovered. She knew nothing of lawyers or accountants or friends or anyone who could shed light on the old man’s wishes or assets; there was just a crammed apartment that needed vacating. And, with a flight home and a tight budget, she could take nothing with her.

A dumpster was backed under the balcony. A lifetime of records fluttered into it, an old pipe that had warmed his twisted hands, clothes, slippers ... any sign that he had ever been on this earth, had a family, contributed to his profession and his community. Gone. Gone were the certificates and plaques, his favorite pictures. Furniture was put in the hallway with a note asking those in need to help themselves; it was all gone by the next morning.

She carried on the plane with her a brown envelope. Inside were old photographs; she assumed they were of long-dead family. She could not know; there were no names on the back. Just old photographs that meant nothing to her but had meant something to him. They will mean even less to the next generation. Gone were 92 years of living, of struggling, of successes and passions and history – and family. Gone as if he had never lived.

And it was all so unnecessary. He was an educated man who kept receipts and guarantees for 50 years, yet there was no record of what he wished done with his possessions. He had assumed Jane’s father would outlive him, and that his affairs would be dealt with according to his wishes. And that was his mistake.

Never assume anything. Make sure at least two people know where your will is kept and how you want your affairs handled.

This is just one of dozens of helpful ideas presented in The Estate Manual and its electronic counterpart, THEMES™ – estate planning’s missing link. The manual organizes the human side of estate planning. This area is often overlooked, but it makes a huge (and obvious) difference to survivors. It is an easy-to-use system for making sure nothing is left out of your planning.

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