When you name me as your professional executor or trustee, we have an annual “check-in” call or email to make sure I’m up to date on your plan and wishes.
We’ll review below what we chat about during our annual check-in.
But first, why annually? As your executor and potential witness if your will is contested, it’s useful for me to be familiar not just with a snapshot of your wishes upon your death, but the trajectory of your wishes.
For example, it helps me to track that year after year your niece was gaining your favor. Maybe she only made phone calls in the beginning, then she sent Christmas cards to you, and ultimately, she finally started visiting you. At each annual check-in, you talk about her more and more. On the flip side, if every year you report the same thing about your niece and she contests your will, then I’ll know what that relationship was like if I have to testify in court.
1. Are you alive?
If you answer our check in call each year, then we’ll know you’re alive! Of course, we care more than whether you are dead or alive. We’ll ask about your health and check to see if there are any signs of capacity issues. For example, are you becoming frailer each year? Perhaps you might need a trust or other sort of estate planning advice.
2. Does your plan still reflect your wishes?
Does your plan still reflect who you want as your beneficiaries? Are any of your beneficiaries dead or incapacitated since we chatted last? Perhaps there is now someone you would like to cut out of your will or maybe a beneficiary is no longer worthy of an outright inheritance. Maybe your nephew is now a drug addict or gambling addict, and you need to put his share into a trust because you still want to give him something, just not all at once. Maybe one of your beneficiaries is now in a nursing home, and you want to make sure her share is protected (not counted as an available asset).
3. Have your assets changed?
Have you bought or sold anything major? As your professional executor, I need to collect and distribute your property after your death. It would definitely help me to know that your summer home in the Poconos has been sold or maybe you bought a big piece of land in Montana.
Also, are you significantly richer or poorer than when we last checked in? Did your crypto crash or your Bitcoin pop? There is a cost-benefit analysis involved, and the size of your estate plays a big role in that.
4. Do your assets still have correct titles and beneficiaries?
If you have a trust, you probably want a good number of assets to be no longer owned by you personally, but rather owned by the trust. Is that trust paperwork in place with the bank?
Even if you don’t have a trust, do you have beneficiaries on your accounts? Have you named who automatically gets your 401(k), life insurance, IRA, brokerage account, etc.? It’s important to make sure the correct person is named. Is your old girlfriend from ten years ago still listed as the beneficiary?
As a caveat, we generally don’t recommend structuring your estate plan with beneficiary designations. There are many problems with that approach, and you can check out this link to learn more. If you do have beneficiary designations, we’ll make sure the designations are at least reasonably accurate.
5. Are we still a good match?
The last thing we’ll check is if you and I are still a good match. Do we still like each other, and do we still trust each other? Am I still young and fresh and up to date on estate administration? Or maybe when I am older, you’ll want a younger professional executor. I mean, you should have an executor who is likely to survive you! Does my style of doing things match the way you want things done?
There is no right or wrong answer.
The check-in is usually a 15- or 20-minute phone call, or even a few emails back and forth. The check-in helps us keep in touch over the years and gives me a better picture of your wishes each time.
If you want to learn more about professional executors, check out my book, “How to Hire an Executor,” available on Amazon.