The First Steps an Executor Must Take

In the intense aftermath of a loved one's passing, not only does an executor have to cope with their grief, but they also have the funeral or memorial service to arrange, plus numerous other tasks. Here is a basic description to help outline these responsibilities, and don't forget that there are people around you that you can rely on for help.

Notifying Others

First, there are phone calls that must be made. You may need to notify relatives and close friends, and then perhaps work off of an address book to notify others who need to know. This is certainly something you do not want to have to do alone if you can help it. You could ask a close friend to make some of these difficult calls for you. Then you will have to draw up a list of other people you may need to tell at another time, including perhaps prior neighbors, former coworkers, etc. At some later date, you could mail or email them.

You may also need to gather the information necessary to publish a death notice and obituary in the newspaper. The notice gives out the time of the funeral, while the obituary gives an account of the person's life. Usually speaking, however, obituaries are less likely to be published in a large city than in a small town; it's up to the newspaper. On top of these notifications, you might be asked to let people know where to send a gift in memory of the deceased person, such as donating to a charity, nonprofit organization, church, or school, etc.

Practical Considerations

If there are children, you may need to make provisions for childcare, but there are probably plans laid out already for their care in this time. Even so, it is vital to ensure that no one is forgotten and that everyone is cared for. This includes the rest of the family as well. In the first week or so, you may need to be the one to set up a meal plan to help out relatives, and also to care for visitors. You may also want to ask a relative of friend for help to find lodgings for out-of-town visitors.

If no plans were laid out for the care of a pet, don't send the pet to a shelter, where they stand a high chance of getting euthanized. You can call a rescue group to find a home for the pets. Then you may need to ensure that the yard is maintained, whether that means hiring a service or a local teen. You may want to ask someone to collect all mail, or you may want all mail forwarded to you. There are also the newspaper subscriptions to cancel if no one will be staying in the house.

Also, you need to make sure that someone stays in the house throughout the funeral, because the disgusting reality is that there are burglars who watch out for death notices and go after houses they assume will be vacant during the funeral. After the funeral, you may need to choose where to donate flowers, such as to a nursing home, hospital, or church. Keep track of those who give gifts, such as flowers, cards, food, etc., so that at a later time you can mail thank-you cards.

Legal Responsibilities

Protect the valuables, putting any cash, jewelry, art, etc. under lock and key. If a family member or friends demands that they get a promised keepsake, you will have to be firm, explaining that by law you cannot distribute anything from the estate yet. For one thing, you may still need to find the will, or the living trust, whatever estate planning documents have been stored. Once you find them, you need to ensure their safekeeping.

As you move more and more into handling the legal duties of an executor, complex issues may arise, and a probate lawyer may be of invaluable assistance, providing the advice and services you may need from time to time. At whatever time you need legal counsel, do not hesitate to consult a probate lawyer right away.

Description: As an executor, what are the first steps that must be taken after a devastating loss? These actions include notifying loved ones, publishing a death notice, finding the will, and much more.