The Dangers of Neglecting the Interpersonal

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The Dangers of Neglecting the Interpersonal

The Dangers of Neglecting the Interpersonal

Chronicles of an Executor: Article #3
The Dangers of Neglecting the Interpersonal

Source: Apartment News Magazine
By Timothy Gorman
Real Estate Broker/CPA/Entrepreneur

With the passing of my father, William (Bill) Gorman, in May of this year, I started chronicling my journey through the executorship of his estate and, more recently, sharing my insights with the readers of Apartment News Magazine. This is the third article of the series.

In the first article, published in September 2023, I discussed the preparations made and the complexities found while assuming the executor role. Despite the careful planning and expert advice received, along with the months and years spent establishing the family trust, there were still unexpected challenges.

The second column, “Suspended in Free-Fall” (Apartment News Magazine, October 2023), focused on the initial steps taken and the prerequisite 120-day hold before distributing the assets. As mandated, this waiting period allows for inquiries regarding unforeseen tax liabilities or reviews, audits, monies owed, and other concerns — any or all of these issues can potentially stretch the executorship process into a multi-year undertaking.

Having spent so many years in financial management, I initially placed greater emphasis on the technical and business side of asset planning. Trusts, operating entities, tax strategies, and all the intricate details that facilitate the transition of wealth were my primary considerations. However, I ignored the interpersonal and family dynamics that I assumed would naturally fall into place. My neglect of those softer skills soon became strikingly evident on both a personal and business level.

As mentioned in my second article, one key advisor missing from the team was a trained facilitator to help address interpersonal issues and preferences. Substantial complexities arise from differences in blended families, cultural backgrounds, generational gaps, faiths, socio-economic statuses, and political affiliations. Professional guidance to foster open, respectful communications can make a world of difference in preserving family harmony during the estate administration process.

Engaging in candid conversations with our loved ones about their preferences, plans, and wishes should be a proactive practice, occurring well before the need arises. Such discussions help to ensure clarity and enhance understanding, as well as act as a buffer against the turbulence of emotion that can obscure sound decision-making during stressful times.

I also now recognize that other family members likely share the same emotions that I am experiencing. Keeping everyone in the communications loop is not only a stewardship obligation, it also serves as a simple, yet profound, act of kindness that should be extended to every family member.

Then, of course, there are the questions that often remain unasked until it is too late. In hindsight, I wish I had probed my father for seemingly insignificant yet deeply personal details about his preferences—his favorite restaurant, music, or even the setting he envisioned for celebrating his life. These seemingly minor inquiries can reveal surprising facets of a loved one’s personality, and the absence of such knowledge can sometimes lead to unexpected dilemmas.

For instance, I recently discovered that the last CD my father had played in his car was disco. As a result, I now ponder whether Donna Summer should grace the playlist at his memorial. It is a poignant reminder of how these seemingly minor details can become meaningful touchstones when we seek to honor the memory of those we have lost.

Throughout the rest of this holding pattern, I plan to share more lessons learned, including the distinction between drafting and implementing an estate plan versus creating and fulfilling a legacy. In my next article, I will delve into the process of selecting an executor and understanding the critical qualities that can make this role a linchpin in your estate plan.

My chronicle as an executor marches onward, each step revealing new insights. It is a path marked by profound experiences, unexpected challenges, and valuable lessons. Stay with me as we explore this uncharted territory together, navigating the turbulent skies of estate administration.

Timothy Gorman is a licensed Real Estate Broker, a former Certified Public Accountant, and an accomplished small business owner with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In 2010, he joined his father at the Brea (CA)-based brokerage firm, WR Gorman & Associates. 

In tribute to his father’s legacy of wealth-building through real estate, Tim recently launched DG Realty Group, Inc., with Nicholas Dunlap to provide full brokerage services with tailored solutions. As he continues to share the essential lessons of this article series, he welcomes reader questions and topic suggestions for future articles.