Canadian Credit Union Association

The Business of an Executor Advisor

By Laura Ross, MBA, CEA (article from May 2020 publication of Be CEAN), a quarterly publication from The Canadian Institute of Certified Executor Advisors)

After being named executor three times in a row I was shocked by the lack of direction given to me by financial institutions. I had a background in finance and still found the administration of these estates to be overly complicated and time consuming. I decided to start a business to assist other executors with this role. I researched courses and found The Canadian Institute of Certified Executor Advisors – a perfect complement to my practical experience. Read full article

My initial business model was to assist executors with their task of administering estates. It became clear immediately that most of the estates I was working on were poorly organized and the executor had been given little or no direction in how to execute the estate. Family conflict was the direct outcome of these messy estates.

I determined that in order to really assist people with their estates, the work needed to be done up front so that estates were well documented and well communicated with their family members. Being a professional Executor Advisor begins well before someone passes away. Families fight about a number of things when the death of a loved one occurs. It is not always about money.

A high net worth couple I met recently had a stable of professionals helping them including a lawyer, accountant, investment counsellor and insurance provider. Their Will was about 2 inches thick. The first item we identified as lacking was a Do Not Resuscitate. Neither the husband nor wife had any health directives in place including a Power of Attorney for Health. How could this be with so many professionals helping them? This is an area that is often overlooked but can cause such unnecessary pain for families who don’t know what their loved one’s wishes are.

I help individuals, couples and families in discussing three main aspects of their estate plans: their health directives, financial wishes and overall estate goals.

Health directives involve a discussion around a Do Not Resuscitate, Powers of Attorney, short, medium- and long-term health goals and a medical summary.

Financial wishes involve an up to date Will, the proper designation of assets for beneficiaries, Powers of Attorney for property, the consolidation of financial assets and the understanding of how assets will transfer to beneficiaries.

Estate goals involves funeral wishes, who gets what, who will be your executor and why, and using professionals to help achieve your overall goals.

I will accept assignments as an Executor Advisor when a client passes away but I limit that role to cases where I have been involved in the estate set up, or have an intimate knowledge of the estate. I am mostly referred to clients by financial advisors who want their clients to have their “Ducks in a Row” so the financial advisor has peace of mind that they will not be the one doing most of this work when their client passes on. The financial advisor wants to focus on the plan for how the assets will transfer to the beneficiaries as well as develop a relationship with the next generation. I often speak at client luncheons or group presentations to highlight the need for getting an estate plan together.

I charge $200/hour for my services regardless of whether they are for estate planning advice or acting in the role of an advisor to the executor. My work often prepares the client with a well thought out agenda before engaging the work of an estate lawyer and/or accountant in order to have a productive meeting with both parties. At $700/hour for legal fees it makes sense to come prepared.

Death is the elephant in the room. No-one likes to talk about it, yet it happens to us all. Let’s start talking about that elephant so we can simplify the transition and keep families intact!

Get a discount on the Certified Executor Advisor program through Cusource Education here.