Being named an executor for someone’s estate is not always an easy job. As your loved one’s caregiver, chances are that job will fall on your shoulders. Caregivers Connection has compiled a list of six helpful tools for an executor.
Dealing with the practical aspects of your loved ones passing, can be difficult. Begin with setting up a separate filing system for the estate and keep copies of everything you’ve sent and received from creditors, beneficiaries, financial institutions and others.
Obtain the death certificate
As the executor, you are responsible for funeral and burial arrangements. Those expenses are paid from the estate, if your loved one didn’t have these services pre-paid.
Additionally, the funeral home will need to know how many copies of the death certificate will be necessary. Copies are required when notifying banks, investment firms, life insurance companies, VA, Social Security administration and others, about the death of your loved one. A rule of thumb is to order double the amount you think you’ll need.
If there’s a will, but you don’t already know where it is, you may find it among your loved one’s belongings, or in a safe deposit box. If you can only find a copy, you’ll need to get the original from the attorney who drafted it. Also, gather bank statements, social security statements, and any other documents pertaining to their finances, so you have them all in one place.
Notify interested parties
If there is a will, it is the responsibility of the executor to notify anyone mentioned in the will. In addition, based on the laws of your state, you may need to place an advertisement for potential creditors in their local newspaper.
Locate and protect the assets
Ideally, you should know where all of the important documents are, and you have them at your disposal. Beyond that, it is wise to not allow anyone to simply come in and take mom’s favorite set of sterling, unless it is clearly spelled out in her will. Ensuring the safety of your loved one’s possessions until the will has been evaluated can protect you from any legal issues with other family members.
Pay the bills
The estate oversees paying all debts of your loved one after they pass. This includes any income tax and estate taxes that may be owed. Before paying any debts, you are responsible for ensuring the estate’s assets can cover all of them. If not, a probate judge will prioritize the creditors.
Don’t rush the process
The natural inclination is to try to ‘make everyone happy and distribute the assets’. However, if you rush, you could miss some crucial legal steps, and could be found liable. If you haven’t hired an attorney, this is where having one can be a big help.
An attorney also can step in and mediate beneficiary disputes, which can get nasty. “There’s a saying that you never know anybody until you’ve shared an inheritance with them,” says estate planning attorney Peterson. “If someone feels slighted, it can get very bitter.”
With a little organization and careful record-keeping, the obligations of an executor don’t have to be overwhelming.