E295 Executors as Privacy and Emotional Buffer for Solo Agers
Executors see a lot of intimate details and secrets as part of their job. If the executor was a friend or family member of the decedent, this can be very emotional and hard to unsee. It’s often better for friends and family to have a disinterested professional executor instead. Using a professional executor without emotional connection can spare the family and friends from the intimate details.
Professional executors protect secrets
Executors have a legal duty to protect and honor the reputation of the decedent. Decision-making is not all about the money in the estate. Sometimes, the executor needs to make a decision that costs some money, but it’s worth it to protect the legacy and reputation of the deceased.
So, what kind of secrets might the executor need to protect?
It’s not exactly a secret, but oftentimes executors protect the legacy of the decedent’s living conditions. The executor understands that revealing a hoarding situation would be embarrassing. Similarly, the decedent may have been pinching pennies in a sparsely furnished apartment, but did not let anyone know about their true financial situation. An example of this was the Brooke Aster case: she was a very wealthy woman who contributed millions to charities. Unfortunately, her estate was heavily contested and the ugly details about her end-of-life living conditions became public. Ms. Aster had been sleeping on a urine-stained mattress in her kitchen. Not an image she would have wanted the public to envision.
Executors also protect the knowledge of the decedent’s habits. Sometimes the decedent drank more than people knew. Maybe that’s what the decedent felt he needed to do to get through his final years, but that doesn’t mean he’d want his family and friends to know. This also extends to drugs (prescription and recreational). Another habit to protect is the decedent’s pornography addiction or sexual habits. It would be uncomfortable for the kids and grandkids to know about grandma’s active sex life.
Professional executors spare your heirs from regret
We clean up those embarrassing apartments. It can be emotionally shocking for friends and family to see how you lived, ate, and slept. They might be unprepared to see a medicine cabinet full of pain killers. The image they draw from your living conditions may lead them to believe you were lonelier than you really were. It can cause them to grieve more once they see how you lived.
If you want them to have only the fondest memories, spare them from the estate cleanup.
Professional executors buffer drama among heirs
As we discussed, it is hard to unsee those secrets. This often leads to the heightened emotional state of the family/friend executor, which can spark conflict and drama among heirs. For example, the executor friend might blame the decedent’s boyfriend for not taking better care of her at the end of her life. Sometimes it’s better if family and friends are in the dark a bit; no need to see it all.
A professional executor can work through the issues of the estate without getting emotionally involved. To the extent that there is any drama, we act as a buffer. Let the heirs get mad at us.
Hiring a professional executor allows family and friends to have fond memories of you and allows them to continue healthy relationships with each other.
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