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If you are an executor, you have a vital role. When the testator (the owner of the will) passes, the executor is tasked with accounting for and locating all assets, paying off creditors, and dividing the estate to the beneficiaries named in the will.
The executor not only needs to be trustworthy but would benefit from a substantial financial or legal background. Attention to detail, understanding of debt and finances, and estate law knowledge are all positive qualities for an executor. The best decision is to hire a trusted legal firm specializing in estate law like Heban, Murphree, & Lewandowski. We can ensure the probate process goes smoothly and all inheritances are received as soon as possible.
You can decline to be an executor at any time. Alternative executors should be named if the executor is unable or unwilling to take on the responsibility.
If the executor is a family member or friend, they usually take on the responsibility without pay. It is generally seen as a favor to the deceased. Many times the will is complicated; there are disputes, substantial tax liabilities, or other complications. These issues often require a lawyer to act as an executor.
First and foremost, an executor should work on obtaining a death certificate. You’ll need the deceased’s personal information to obtain this, including a social security number in many circumstances. Make sure to get multiple certified copies for use throughout the probate process.
A diligent executor starts off the probate process by obtaining a copy of the will and filing it with the local probate court. At times it can be challenging to locate a will in the hectic days that follow a loved one’s passing, so do your best to have its location recorded before something occurs. As this happens, an executor will determine who the beneficiaries of the will are and what assets they inherit. The executor should reach out to all parties and discuss an action plan. Open communication is essential to make all parties feel involved and prevent any disputes along the way.
Having an attorney assist with the notification of death is important when a creditor or business is involved. This step is required, and any missteps can delay probate substantially. Notification starts the process for death benefits like life insurance and allows creditors to issue final bills. Different states have different laws regarding how to put out a notice of death, so be sure to contact a local attorney for more information.
The will should detail what the deceased’s estate consists of, but taking account of possessions, financial statements, real estate, and more is a comprehensive process. All personal property should be noted. Furthermore, you’ll need to determine the estate’s value and the possessions that it consists of.
It’s important to keep beneficiaries apprised of this process. Transparency is vital as beneficiaries have been known to take possessions before they’ve been documented (family heirlooms, for instance). Even if there is no ill intent, this can cause disputes between family members can significantly delay probate and lead to penalties or legal action.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by incoming bills, debts, and requests as an executor. Be sure to consult with the appropriate agencies and professionals to ensure the bills and debts you are receiving are legitimate. Unfortunately, scammers know that this is a turbulent time in your life, and you are likely grieving the loss of a loved one, and false collections requests are prevalent. The executor needs a clear picture of debts and must pay them off from the estate, alongside income and estate taxes, before distributing any inheritance.
If probate goes without problems, you will be able to distribute property and inheritance to beneficiaries. This starts with creating a plan for fair, timely distribution. As this is one of the areas most likely to trigger a dispute, make sure you are communicating the process in its entirety to everyone involved. Once the value is assessed, and shares are determined, assets can be distributed. Afterward, with the attorney’s help, the probate process can be brought to a close with the courts.
Have more questions? Reach out to our law firm for professional legal guidance!