Now that You are an Executor: Things you Should Know

If you were named the executor of a will, you were given a big responsibility. You are now in charge of upholding the wishes of your decedent and making sure that the probate procedure goes smoothly. In fact, you are legally responsible for protecting assets the entire time that the probate is in process. It isn’t until after you have completed the probate and the assets are dispersed that you will be relieved of your responsibilities. If someone tampers with the assets in the estate during probate, you might be found liable. If you sell off assets, then you might end up in legal trouble. Even though state laws on probate vary, there are a few actions that apply to every state in America.

As the executor of the estate, you will need to complete the funeral and burial arrangements for your decedent. You need to get a death certificate for the one who passed on in order to complete these arrangements. You will also need death certificates when notifying financial accounts, the Veterans Administration or Social Security Administration, and life insurance. One estate planning attorney recommends that you get twice as many certificates as you think that you will need. All sorts of companies will demand a copy in order to terminate an account.

Also as the executor, you will need to find the will or trust that your decedent left behind. Normally this is filed someone. You are required to submit a copy of the will to the probate court. If your decedent had a living trust you may be able to bypass probate court, but you will need a legal representative to look into this for you. Once you have found the trust or will documents, you will want to consult with a probate attorney, an appraiser, a tax accountant, and other professionals who are proficient in your area of inquiry. Without their help, you may make mistakes. For example, an appraiser may be able to value a certain item higher than you would have expected. Probate courts appreciate when you hire an attorney to help. Normally if you bypass this option then you end up with a longer process full of mistakes.

You will also need to make sure that you file letters testamentary. These are issued by the courts and show that you have the right to act on behalf of the estate. Once you have these letters, you have to locate and protect all assets that are a part of the estate. Sometimes forward-thinkers will provide their executor a list of all assets and where to find them before their passing. This is very helpful, but not always possible. If your decedent died suddenly, then you may have to locate the attorney that your decedent used when preparing his or her will. That person probably has a list of all assets in some form or another. The assets will later be distributed by trust, will, or contract. But as the executor you need to make sure that no family members take anything from the estate before the probate has been finalized.

Also as the executor, you are responsible for paying your decedent’s debts. Don’t be worried, if the debts exceed the assets then you are not required to pay any of them out of your own pocket. Yet you are responsible for disbursing assets to the creditors and making sure that everyone is covered. If you know that the estate won’t cover all debts, then the state will prioritize and distribute the estate as needed. This may take some time, but efficiency, and maybe some help from a professional, will come in handy. If you follow these steps and have a probate lawyer at your side, then you should be able to complete your probate process successfully without too many hang ups and receive your inheritance in due time.