When you are named as the executor of an estate, you become the primary administrator for the estate. While the responsibilities of this position may sound frightening to some people, it doesn’t have to be terribly difficult to oversee estate management and protect the wishes and assets of the deceased. With proper legal assistance in managing an estate, and by following a few smart steps, you can reduce the stress of the situation.
First, realize that you are not always legally obligated to act as an executor. This is especially true if you are unable to handle the estate in question appropriately for personal or other reasons. Hopefully, the person creating the estate plan let you know of his or her wishes ahead of time so you are more prepared. In any event, it’s always a good idea for individuals to specify a backup plan in their estate documents in case an identified executor doesn’t work out.
If you decide to move forward with executor duties, you should ask for a death certificate. The certificate lets you move forward with funeral arrangements and make claims for life insurance payouts as appropriate under the estate. In addition to the death certificate, you will also want copies of any estate documents, including wills and trusts, so you are informed regarding the deceased wishes.
You will need to file appropriate documents with the probate court in some cases. Those documents might include the will, the death certificate and testamentary letters. This is where the process gets complex for some estates and you might find third-party assistance helpful. Once you’ve filed appropriate paperwork, you can begin protecting or distributing assets, including paying any remaining debts and taxes for the estate.
Source: Bankrate, “7 tips for the executor of an estate,” Judy Martel, accessed May. 28, 2015
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