Being named as the executor of an estate can be an honor: a loved one trusted you enough to leave their final instructions in your hands. However, it can also be a stressful time, especially if you’ve never served in the role before. As an executor, you have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. Your primary responsibilities include locating and safeguarding assets, paying debts and taxes, distributing assets according to the will or intestacy laws, and managing any legal or financial matters pertaining to the estate.Don’t hesitate to hire a professional, like an estate attorney, to help you with the process.
The basic steps of being an executor include the following:
- Get the most recent version of the deceased person’s Will. This may be with their lawyer, in a safety deposit box, or filed with other important papers.
- Start a list or spreadsheet of all the actions you take as the executor, and make sure to keep it up to date as you move through the probate process.
- Get certified copies of the death certificate. You will need these to close some accounts and to give to the IRS. Ten certified copies is a good start.
- File the Will with the probate court and petition the court to begin probate. If necessary.
- Begin notifying institutions, including banks, the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the DMV.
- Contact creditors and find out how much is owed.
- Create an estate bank account to pay creditors and beneficiaries.
- Sell real estate and/or personal property and deposit the proceeds into the estate account, if necessary.
- Pay any debts (this should be done prior to distributing assets).
- Close the estate with the court.
- Distribute assets to beneficiaries
Being an executor can be complex and time-consuming, requiring organizational skills, attention to detail, and sensitivity to the needs of beneficiaries.