Our wide selection of greeting card categories offers verses sentimental, humorous, and all forms in between to convey best wishes on birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, retirement, the gamut of human endeavours.
But until last Thursday I never realized you have left out one category that cries out for a selection of its own. You have no card designed to thank an executor for successfully winding up an estate without sibling arguments over who got what, no court challenges by fringe relatives, or hurt feelings that can fester and ruin Christmas dinners for years into the future.
When we think of drawing up a will, we may approach a relative or trusted friend to ask them if they would be willing to be executor of our estate. We may do this without fully understanding how time-consuming and stressful the role of executor can be.
Uppermost in our mind is choosing an executor whom we trust to be fair, honest, diligent in observing the law to the letter to avoid legal hitches bound to fritter away the deceased’ hard earned estate, someone who will navigate the potential disagreements to reach a satisfying conclusion for everyone.
The executor is charged with gathering up all the deceased’ assets – land, house, money, investments, personal items and other assets; safeguarding all property beginning with changing door locks and putting valuables in storage; notifying all beneficiaries; paying all outstanding debts; paying income tax; and finally distributing whatever is left of the estate.
As if it’s not stressful enough notifying beneficiaries who may not have been in frequent contact, finding all financial documents some of which may be tucked in odd corners, and doing the work of a lawyer and an accountant, divvying up personal belongings can be a minefield as the executor strives to be fair to all.
Thirty-two years ago my older brother acted as executor for our father’s estate, an estate more complicated than Mom’s (his first experience as executor a few years earlier). Mom and Dad held everything in joint ownership. Her estate went to Dad. Joint ownership speeds up succession from one spouse to the other as the will doesn’t need to be probated, a court proceeding which generally takes a minimum of six months.
Dad’s estate dealt with several pieces of property that had to be sold, a home full of treasured pieces of furniture and personal belongings to be divided among six kids, and scattered financial records which had been too much for him to file properly in his ailing health.
To distribute personal belongs, my brother had each heir in rotation name a family memento they would like to have. So far as I am aware, no one ever felt shorted. I was perfectly satisfied with the disposition of Mom and Dad’s belongings. But until our conversation last Thursday I had never told my brother that. Nor has anyone else.
Why not? Why did I never think to say to my brother, “Thank you for a job well done.” Surely in 32 years an opportunity would have cropped up?
I was oblivious to the monumental task my brother had taken on and executed so well. I took it for granted he had been asked to be Mom and Dad’s executor, and as kids, we did our duty without expectation of a thank you, or praise such as the ”Good job!” today’s parents utter after every little thing their kids do.
I didn’t even consider that during the months my brother spent evenings and weekends away from his family tending to our parents estates he, too, was grieving.
Hallmark could prod us by printing a card heirs could sign to convey to executors the gratitude we owe them.