This is the third of a series on the duties of an executor. Think of it like a checklist, with everything an executor needs to take care of. To make this list as comprehensive as possible, we’ve divided the series into 12 parts.

To view the series in its entirety, follow this guide:

As an executor, you are the ultimate resource for information - and repository for essential documents.

This is where having solid organizational and communication skills come in handy. You’ll be called upon to gather every necessary document and piece of information, tracking down multiple stakeholders in the process.

Here, we’ve outlined the documents you need to organize and the people to contact in order to get the most up-to-date information about those documents.

Something to remember

When a person’s health is failing, they often appoint a power of attorney to help them navigate end-of-life care and administrative duties.

After a person has died, the power of attorney appointed in their lifetime is no longer valid. A power of attorney is not permitted to act on the estate, unless that person is also the appointed executor.

Who to notify

Apart from close family and friends, you’ll need to notify a few key people about the death of your loved one.

You should set up a conversation with their financial advisor or accountant. They will have the most complete picture of accounts and investments and be able to share information on certain policies with you.

Ensure all of the documents and accounts outlined in the will are with this specific financial advisor. If not, make sure all of the correct people are contacted.

Their financial advisor will assess the value of their investments to help tally the estate. They can also assist in appointing a new beneficiary when the estate has been distributed.

You also need to get in touch with their lawyer.

The lawyer will most often have a copy of the will. Once you can be assured it’s the most recent copy, you’ll be able to move ahead with acting on it.

You can also consult with the lawyer to determine if it is necessary to go through the probate process.

After someone dies, even if there was no money to be distributed to beneficiaries, creditors are able to open an estate and seek compensation for money owed. That’s why it’s essential to administer the estate properly and fully from the outset.

A lawyer can help make this process go more smoothly, while helping you gather all of the important information and legal documents you might need.

Documents you need

There are certain documents that are necessary to execute a person’s estate, like:

  • Bank statements
  • Life insurance policies
  • Health insurance policies
  • Military paperwork
  • Cemetery deeds
  • Legal documents surrounding divorce
  • Pension benefit documents
  • Historical tax records and income tax returns

And, of course, you will need to obtain a copy of the will - ensuring the copy you have is the most recent, final copy.

Collecting personal documents

In addition to all of the necessary paperwork that comes with administering an estate, you also need access to personal documents and identification.

Collect and organize items like:

  • Passport
  • Social insurance card
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Driver’s license
  • Health card

Other places to look

Living and paperwork go hand-in-hand. Almost all of our regular transactions come with a paper trail - and some of that paperwork is essential for an executor to gather.

In addition to compiling documents from trusted advisors and the home of your loved one, there are a few other places to look for important information.

Start collecting your loved one’s mail immediately after they pass. You should also set up a forwarding address to ensure mail is routed to the proper place. This is important for securing the home, as well as ensuring no crucial documents like statements of accounts go missing.

You should also review all of their insurance policies thoroughly and contact their insurance provider to let them know your loved one has died. If they had a funeral policy, this is when you’ll be able to claim those benefits as part of the estate to help fund the funeral and burial.

Keep an eye out for any recurring expenses, like leases, mortgages or contracts with service providers. These can rapidly create debt, fees and interest if not paid on time. Notify all accounts about the death to ensure you can terminate ongoing contracts or work out alternative payment arrangements.

Next in the Executor Duties Checklist, tying up loose ends.