When a beneficiary is serving as executor of the estate

Published on May 1, 2023

Policyholders and beneficiaries are typically connected through a family or marriage relationship. They’re often a spouse, a child, a parent, or a sibling. For this reason, a life insurance beneficiary is likely playing another role as they grieve their loved one: executor of their estate.

The executor, also known as the administrator or personal representative, holds substantial fiduciary and legal responsibilities. And they are saddled with a substantial workload as they settle their loved one’s affairs—amping up their stress and reducing their focus in a way that leads to struggles at work, research shows.

It’s important to keep in mind the high-pressure situation they are in, and how much it means to them to receive support that truly makes their job easier. At a time when other family members look to the executor to solve problems, the loneliness of this trusted role can take a toll.

Personalized, meaningful support generates goodwill and gratitude among these family leaders—and won’t soon be forgotten. To be truly helpful, it is important to understand what they are dealing with and how the executor role typically affects people.

What it means to be an executor

Executors are entrusted with settling their loved one’s affairs, including leading the estate through the probate process, and are empowered to act on behalf on the state in any way they see fit.

At the same time, they can be held legally responsible if beneficiaries or heirs claim they have done acted inappropriately and reduced the value of the estate.

Empathy surveyed 1,485 Americans who experienced a recent loss for its Cost of Dying Report and found that executors reported more suffering than other bereaved people:

  • 80% of executors experienced confusion (compared to 70% of non-executors).

  • 81% reported changes in sleep patterns, vs. 74% of non-executors.

  • 71% experienced irritability or an inability to control anger, with 61% of non-executors reporting the same.

And the Cost of Dying Report showed that executors are not prepared for how time-consuming this role is:

  • 40% found that dealing with financial affairs took much longer than they expected.

  • 46% of executors said probate took longer than expected.

  • 50% said dealing with the house was more time-intensive than they thought it would be.

How to support a beneficiary who is also an executor

When a beneficiary is also serving as executor of the estate, they are typically in a time crunch. And they are working on behalf of a family that is likely experiencing a cash crunch as well—laying out funds that will be reimbursed when the estate completes probate.

On average, settling a loved one’s affairs took 13 months, and cost more than $12,000, the Cost of Dying Report showed.

For this reason, executors will appreciate anything that saves them time and speeds up payouts to provide peace of mind to their family members.

Personalized, meaningful support generates goodwill and gratitude among these family leaders—and won’t soon be forgotten.

Another way to win the hearts of the beneficiary-slash-executor crowd: information and tools.

Whether they are going it alone or managing a team of professionals they’ve hired to help them, the buck stops with the executor, so to speak. And unlike the lawyer, real estate agent, and accountant they may have hired, they likely haven’t been through probate before. They haven’t gone through the court-supervised process of selling a house to pay estate debts before. And they haven’t filed a loved one’s final taxes before, to name just three examples.

Comprehensive, personalized bereavement care through a service like Empathy’s gives beneficiaries the tools to tackle these challenges with more confidence—and save them precious time and energy.

Typically executors are chosen because they are the most competent, trustworthy, and respected person in the family. They are leaders and decision-makers in their family—and by anticipating their needs a provider can provide crucial help to this influential group during their most overwhelming moments.

Bring Empathy to your company

Everyone deserves help after loss. Join us to find the support your families need.