5 Takeaways I Learned as a 30-Year-Old Executor and Trustee 

Kasha Orozco and Grandmother Year Old Executor The Senior Source

Written By Kasha Orozco 

Losing a loved one is never easy. I was raised by my grandmother, a saint in so many aspects. One of the downsides to being raised by a grandparent though, is you can expect to lose the person you’ve known as a primary caregiver younger than your peers. While most of my peers weren’t even thinking of losing their parents yet, I was making housing and medical decisions. I was juggling the emotions of being a new mom while watching the person I had known as a mother slip away. 

At the age of 30, I found myself navigating the complex terrain of settling an estate. In settling my grandmother’s affairs, I learned invaluable lessons that extended far beyond the realm of paperwork and legalities. Here are five key insights that shaped my experience as a young executor. I use the term ‘executor’ for brevity and due to many loved ones not using a trust.

My experience offered valuable lessons and a chance for personal growth, fostering gratitude for the life I continue to lead. While anyone, at any age, can benefit from these insights, I hope that millennials who may read this find it to be especially helpful as they prepare for the inevitable conversation with their loved ones.

  1. Nothing Goes as Planned 

I count myself very fortunate to be raised by a woman who had great empathy and who was a planner. She knew the downsides of my being raised by an older adult and took that into consideration when she was documenting her final wishes. My grandmother had designated another family member as a trustee who had already been through this process a few times, with parents and a spouse. But no matter how meticulously you plan, life has a way of throwing curveballs. Estate settlement is no exception. The appointed trustee decided in our first meeting with my grandmother’s lawyer that this was not something they had the capacity to take on, so they resigned. I had no idea that was even an option. The lawyer quickly moved on, naming who my grandmother had appointed next in line—yours truly. I had no idea what that meant at the time, and fortunately I had a lawyer who would become a great confidant and advisor in this process. From legal intricacies to unexpected challenges, it didn’t take long to realize the importance of flexibility. Embracing the unpredictable not only helped me manage stress but also enabled me to adapt to evolving circumstances and find creative solutions to unforeseen issues. 

  1. Prior Communication with Your Loved One is Key 

The significance of proactive communication with your loved one cannot be emphasized enough. Many older adults may have already devised a plan, trusting that everything will smoothly unfold for their family. In my personal experience, my grandmother, having appointed another trustee, likely didn’t consider discussing her estate with me. Simply asking a few pertinent questions can provide insight into the situation: Do they have a legally valid final will? Who is designated as the executor? Are there any aspects beyond the documented details that one should be aware of? Engaging in these conversations and actively documenting their preferences ensures that legal matters are in order, ultimately streamlining the entire estate settlement process. 

  1. Expect Conflict 

One of the most unfortunate lessons I learned was to expect conflict. The emotional and financial stakes involving an estate settlement can give rise to disagreements among family and friends. Many people may be expecting something they will not get, or have emotional ties, which can complicate things very quickly. To be entirely frank, I was not personally prepared for this. I am unsure who first said, “Money doesn’t change people. It unmasks them.” But I will begrudgingly agree. You may lose respect and, sadly, relationships over financial aspects of this process. But if you can acknowledge the potential for conflict, it can allow you to approach this process with a level-headed mindset. Try your best to seek amicable resolutions and unity during an already emotionally charged process.  

  1. Self-Differentiation Will be Your Greatest Asset 

This leads to the next question; how do you get through conflict? The answer to that is self-differentiation. This is a valuable life skill, and in this experience, it proved to be one of my greatest attributes. The ability to preserve my own identity, values, and mental health amid the external financial and relational pressures empowered me to gracefully navigate through conflicting opinions. By exercising this skill, decisions can be approached with a blend of empathy and practicality. My aim in life is never to just do anything out of obligation, but to be a deeply empathetic and considerate human. The art of balancing detachment and empathy can be something learned through experience, and this proved to be one of the ultimate learning experiences.  

  1. It’s About the Loved One, Nobody Else 

The most crucial thing in all of this is to remember that the heart of estate settlement is the loved one. Keeping this guiding principle at the forefront of decision making ensures that the focus remains on honoring their memory and fulfilling their wishes. Through the tears, disagreements, and emotions that came with estate settlement, remembering it was about my grandmother provided a sense of clarity. It’s not about sorting out possessions or distributing assets, it’s about honoring a life lived and the legacy left behind.  

Assuming the role of a young executor at 30 presented unique challenges, but it’s fundamentally an honor and a privilege to have someone trust you with something of this magnitude. It served as a way to help find closure, a final act of service to a woman who, despite her own sacrifices, prioritized raising a child. She loved fiercely and always put others before herself, and this was my chance to do the same for her. This journey is a tribute of love, respect, and dedication to someone who profoundly impacted lives. 

Beyond these things that I’ve learned by experience, if you have been asked to be a trustee or executor of a will, I recommend reading things from people in the financial or legal industries and by talking to an estate lawyer for legal advice. 

About the Author, Kasha Orozco: 

Kasha Orozco is a driven professional who embarked on her journey in the field of marketing after completing her education at Barclay College in Psychology. With a passion for connecting people and resources, Kasha found her niche as the Marketing Coordinator at The Senior Source. Kasha is dedicated to making a positive impact in the lives of seniors by promoting awareness and engagement through various marketing channels. 

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