The problem with being an executor
An executor of a will is not an easy job. As someone who has to carry out the wishes of the deceased, the executor has a duty to distribute the most possible to the beneficiaries. Sometimes, the beneficiaries are not so grateful to the executor, perhaps angry they weren’t chosen or perhaps believing the executor is taking too much compensation or favoring one beneficiary over another.
Even if the beneficiaries are not troublesome, every executor faces several practical issues- how to pay for the funeral costs and the costs of applying for probate (probate is the process of authenticating a will and required to deal with most financial institutions; the probate fee can be tens of thousands in a large estate)? After all, without a grant of probate, the executor cannot access the deceased’s funds unless it was held in a joint account or the executor already had signing authority over a bank account.
Since this process can sometimes take weeks and months (assuming the beneficiaries have not challenged the will or appointment of an executor), there is a cash flow gap between the expenses of administrating an estate and when the grant of probate can be presented to the bank to free up the estate’s funds. For executor’s with modest means, footing these costs or sharing it among the beneficiaries can bust a household budget.
The solution is to locate and find: (i) the will; (ii) the certificate of death; and (iii) calculate assets and expenses to determine probate (ideally with the help of a wills and estates lawyer. With these in hand, attend to the bank and explain the situation and request that an advance of funds be made specifically to pay for the funeral expense and the probate fees. Most banks will make cheques directly to the appropriate persons (but not to the executor personally). The key is to find someone at the bank who has familiarity with dealing with these types of situations (which is yet another reason why the bank continue to need branches and we cannot work on a totally virtual world).