Being the trusted executor of a friend’s or loved one’s Estate is quite an honor, and it may come with responsibilities that could feel daunting at times.
Like all management roles, it takes organization, foresight, and attention to detail to be an effective executor.
Probate is a legal process where a special court oversees the management of a person’s Estate after they have died.
The executor tasked with distributing the estate must file a petition with the court that includes a copy of the death certificate and the will.
The court will review the petition and other documents to open the probate and determine who should be appointed executor.
An executor is a person named in a will to oversee the closing of the deceased’s estate, and the distribution of the remaining assets according to the terms of the will.
An executor’s specific responsibilities may include:
- Obtaining a copy of the will and filing it with the local probate court
- Notifying banks and government agencies of the decedent’s death
- Representing the estate in court
Additionally, other responsibilities may include:
- Gathering the assets of the estate
- Coordinating the estate’s payment of taxes and debts
- Making distributions to heirs and beneficiaries
- Keeping beneficiaries informed about estate-related decisions
An executor may be compensated for their services in accordance with the conditions outlined in the will, they’re not permitted to steal from the estate or sell any assets for less than their fair market value.
If you are appointed an executor in a will and this sounds a little overwhelming, we share three tips to ease your load.
First Call an Experienced Estate Attorney
Once you accept the role of an executor in a will, you accept responsibility and liability if something goes wrong. If you are unsure about your willingness or ability to handle that responsibility, it is a great idea to contact your Estate Attorney.
When you hire an experienced attorney, you are protecting yourself by following the guidance they provide to avoid legal pitfalls and blind spots.
In some states, it is required that the executor be represented by competent legal counsel which also provides peace of mind.
If the expense is a concern, note that you do not necessarily need to bear the expense.
As the executor, you are permitted to hire professionals, such as financial advisors, attorneys, and certified public accountants, to help you complete your tasks, and they can be paid from the deceased person’s Estate.
Second Get Organized
An executor is a manager, and like all managers, they must juggle many responsibilities. Your attorney can help you organize your responsibilities and prioritize them.
Create a file or binder before meeting with your attorney with the following:
- Original estate planning documents
- Death certificates
- Financial statements
- Insurance policies
- Contact information for beneficiaries.
Bring your binder to your first meeting with your attorney. You may be required to open or manage the deceased person’s bank accounts and develop a means to keep a record of all transactions that occur.
You will be responsible for the accounting of how all estate money is spent.
Keep the decedent’s money and accounts separate from yours, and do not deposit any money into your personal bank accounts.
Third Open communication with the heirs
You will be the primary contact with those involved in the probate process, including the:
- Internal Revenue Service
To aid in communication and reduce stress, make a note of everyone’s contact information. Keep a record of each correspondence and make notes from each phone conversation about what was said and the steps followed afterward.
Being very open in your communication and keeping detailed notes helps the probate process move smoothly and reduces potential disputes.
If you were recently appointed as an executor for a will and are feeling overwhelmed, please reach out.
In addition to helping you through this process, we can help you draft your own estate plan so your family can avoid the probate process.
You can schedule a call with us or reach us directly at 855.631.3457 to learn more about how to best plan today to protect those most important to you.