As the Executor of an estate, numerous practical responsibilities fall to you when someone dies. You have to carefully fulfill your obligations for your own protection and for the benefit of those who stand to receive property from the estate.
Identifying your responsibilities, and taking the eight steps below, will significantly decrease the likelihood of you making a mistake that could lead to any sort of personal responsibility.
Organizing the funeral
The deceased (aka “Testator”) likely provided you with in-depth instructions regarding their wishes for memorial service or interment. It will be your duty to fulfill them, provided that they do not conflict with state law or health code.
Probating the Will
You will have to locate the Will, Trust, or other estate planning documents and present them to the probate court. This step is crucial, as it will result in you having the formal authority to move forward with the probate process.
Collecting estate property
Maybe the decedent rented an apartment, and you need to go clear it out before their landlord disposes of some of their property. Perhaps they lived at a home that they shared with their spouse, so you will need to remove certain assets to protect them from theft by other people who access the property. You will need to determine what the Testator’s personal property is worth, sell those assets, etc.
Notifying creditors and paying debts
Settling the Testator’s debts is one of the most important obligations of an Executor. You will have to send written notice to certain parties and possibly publish notice as well. Then creditors will make claims against the estate, and you will have to use estate assets to pay them.
Filing an inventory of assets
Any remaining assets not used to repay creditors will become part of the estate’s inventory. Creating a written record of this inventory and submitting it to the courts is a crucial step.
Sending notice to heirs and distributing bequests
After repaying creditors, you can start to think about distributing the remaining assets from the estate. Sending written notice and keeping a clear accounting of how you distribute assets will be important. Paying death taxes and filing an Executor’s accounting are required. You may have to retain funds to pay estate taxes or income taxes on behalf of the Testator or the estate itself.
Preparing an executor’s accounting
Once you have handled all known obligations, and distributed major assets, you can prepare an accounting of the estate. It will need to include detailed records of how you distributed various assets and account for the liabilities you handled as well.
Concluding the estate
This last step is often a formality, but sometimes there are outstanding legal matters that still require court review. There may also be a reason to retain funds for future tax obligations.
Taking the right steps during estate administration will protect you from personal liability during this process. Contact OWM Law Offices to help you fulfill all of your legal obligations as executor.