Serving as an executor means that you will have a lot to do. Not only is it your responsibility to handle all of your loved one’s accounts and property, but you take on some personal financial liability for any mistakes that you make in this process.
Having a plan before you start will reduce your chance of making major mistakes. What do you need to do when handling the estate of a loved one?
You need to secure their property and find their documents
The first steps are among the most important. You need to gain entry to their home or apartment. Then, you will need to make an inventory of their assets and secure their property to protect it from a landlord throwing it out or thieves who might target the vacant home.
You will also need to look for testamentary documents like estate plans, a will or trust documents. These documents will play a crucial role in filling the last wishes and final obligations of the testator.
You must close accounts and notify creditors
After someone dies, their assets and liabilities become the responsibility of their estate. You will need to go over their financial records to determine what open accounts they have, including credit card balances and utility accounts.
You will need to contact each of their known creditors and provide them with the information about the estate. In some cases, you will be able to close and pay off the account right away. Other times, you will need to notify them of their right to bring a claim against the estate.
Keeping detailed financial records is important as it will help show that you use the state assets to pay off these accounts and that you made the necessary contact with creditors. You may also need to publish a general notice about the probate proceedings in the newspaper.
You must distribute assets according to the estate plan
Once you have repaid the deceased’s debts, closed old accounts and filed tax returns on their behalf, you will likely have fulfilled all of their outstanding obligations. At that point, you can then use their documents as a guide while you distribute their remaining assets to their loved ones and named beneficiaries. Deviating from their instructions could leave you open to a challenge in probate court.
Knowing the basic obligations you must fulfill as the executor or representative of an estate will minimize the risks you assume when you take on their authority.