When my father passed away, I was suddenly swept up into the world of estate executors. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, which is how it happens most of the time.
By law, when someone dies, their “estate” (regardless of size) must be settled by an executor: debts paid, legal paperwork submitted, assets distributed, etc. Usually, this is done by a close family member, either as named in the will or appointed by the court. And usually, this close family member has never done it before.
A Surprising Amount of Work
It turns out that being an executor is a lot of work. A recent study done by my site EstateExec found that on average it takes 570 hours of work for the executor. The larger the estate, the more work it takes. On average, it takes 16 months to finish but can take years for more complex estates.
When I looked into what I was supposed to do for my father’s estate, I was shocked to discover that the process was like something out of the 1800s: no online forms, no TurboTax but plenty of contradictory internet postings. So, like everyone else, I hired an estate attorney. Unfortunately, hiring an attorney for estate settlement is a lot like hiring an accountant for your annual income taxes — you don’t just hire the person and then walk away. Next thing you know, they’re asking for all sorts of information, in their format, and there are decisions to be made. On average, an estate pays $12.4K to these professionals, and it’s still a lot of work for the executor.
Creating the Business I Needed but Didn’t Have
I eventually got through it, but when I was done, I realized there had to be a better way, especially in the 21st century. Consequently, EstateExec was born. It wasn’t easy, though. Along the way, I discovered a few reasons why such a tool didn’t already exist. First, laws vary dramatically from one state to another, so while any single customer just cares about one state, we had to build the product for all 50 states (and several territories). Second, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, so while customer acquisition can be challenging in any business, we don’t get the luxury of repeat customers.
Eventually, though, EstateExec became the tool I wanted when I was going through the process: automated guidance, customized by the particulars of the estate and automated financials. Over the years, EstateExec has also gained features that other people wanted, as well — such as automated executor compensation calculation and executor logs. It’s been featured places like The New York Times and Law.com, we get numerous customer accolades and we’re helping move the world forward from the 1800s to the 21st century.
Discover: The True Cost of Dying in All 50 States
Not Everyone Is on Board
Now that I’ve created this business, I often think, “You could settle an estate in the old-fashioned, hard way, but why would you want to?”
Well, it turns out that when my mother passed away, my sister took the lead on executor duties, opting not to use the software that I had created just for this task. She has a computer science degree, but the experience was so painful she now tries to avoid computers like the plague. So, I guess some people still do like to do things the hard way. But the rest of us don’t have to.
A Final Note
Serving as an executor can expand to fill all available time. There are so many things that you could do and that you should do. It’s important to inject some balance in the process, and don’t let it consume your life completely. Yes, one thing you can do is to use an online tool to help, but it goes deeper than that. It’s like trying to eat healthily or stay fit: There are some basics you clearly need to do, but beyond that, real life starts to interfere, and in the end, you can’t let any single responsibility define or take over your life.
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