This blog in 2009

December 30, 2008

I am writing this blog because I wish to stimulate conversation and learn from others.  My goal is that through this conversation I will become a better investor and help others become better investors.

While this blog will be primarily about investments and investing, I will also post on administering wills and estates and on politics.  I’ll write about planning and administering estates because I have some experience as an executor.  I’ll write about politics because the ubiquity of governments has caused them to affect most everything in our lives.

1)      Investing and the economy: Managing investments effectively impacts so much in life (retirement, children’s education, independence, bequests).  I have managed my own portfolio for about eight years, have had joint responsibility for a second portfolio and act in an informal advisory capacity for a third portfolio.  I’m not an investment advisor, but have long taken a keen interest.  Through conversations in this blog, I hope we all become better investors (even if you’re Prem Watsa or Warren Buffet you can improve), become financially independent sooner, retire earlier and leave more money to our beneficiaries.

2)      Administering estates: Administering an estate is a tough and sometimes thankless job.  There are the legal and administrative pieces, which are important, but there are also the wishes of the deceased and personalities and emotions of the beneficiaries which must be respected and managed.  I’m going to use my experience as a co-executor for two estates to write about some the challenges and pitfalls and, hopefully, offer some suggestions on how it can “be done right”.

3)      Politics: Whether we like it or not, decisions made by our political leadership can have significant influence on our own personal decision making.  Government policy will affect investment decisions and will affect how estates are structured.  For this reason, I will use this blog to write about politics in Canada, the US (because it directly affects Canadians) and in British Columbia (because I live in BC).

I plan to post regularly and up to three times weekly.  I hope you enjoy it, I hope you contribute to it and I hope you get some benefit from it.

I’ve been honoured with the responsibility of acting as joint power-of-attorney and c0-executor of an elderly woman’s estate.

The estate is complex.  It has significant assets (cash, equities, bonds, real estate and family holding company) and eleven beneficiaries, three of whom directly own voting and non-voting shares in the holding company and eight of whom own non-voting shares.  The holding company’s primary assets include a house in which four beneficiaries live and a holiday property that all eleven enjoy.

The elderly lady passed away almost three years ago and my co-executor and I have been administering her estate since.  We’re very close to concluding this administration with a final distribution to its beneficiaries. 

It has been a tremendously positive experience for me.  Not because it’s been easy or because it’s been without challenge.  But because it has been hard and has presented innumerable and what have, at times, seemed like insurmountable challenges.  

I now fully understand how important an executor is to the successful administration of an estate.  An effective executor will improve the prospects of its beneficiaries.  An ineffective one will adversly affect the outcome for beneficiaries.

Over the course of time I’d like to write in this blog about my experience in administering this estate.  In part because it was such a meaningful process.  But mostly because I now appreciate the importance of the role of executor.  

We’re all going to die and will, perhaps, have assets to pass on.  Some of us will be beneficiaries of estates and some will become executors (I’m an executor of another complex estate).   My hope is that you, a friend or a relative gets some value from my experience.