When someone has a will written up, they need to choose someone to be the executor. Many people consider this a great honor, as it means that the individual has a lot of trust in them. This is not just an honorary designation, however. An executor will have a number of very important legal obligations upon the death of the individual. Before accepting this responsibility, learn about some of the key duties you will be taking on.
Filing Copies of the Will with Probate Court
One of the first things you'll need to do is seek out a copy of the will and file it with the local probate court. Even if the estate does not need to go through probate, the court needs to have a copy on file. If the only estate planning the deceased had done is a will, it will almost certainly need to go through the probate process. The executor will need to work with an attorney throughout the probate experience.
Maintaining Property Until Distribution
All the property of the deceased will need to be maintained until it is ready to be distributed to the heirs, or sold. If they have a house, for example, you'll need to ensure the lawn is mowed, the water is shut off (assuming nobody is living there), and that it is generally kept in a good state of repair. Any expenses associated with maintaining the property can be taken out of the estate itself.
Notifying Creditors and Others of the Death
The next responsibility is to notify all creditors, banks, government agencies, and anyone else who may need to know about the death. This needs to be done as quickly as possible as the individual's death will typically halt interest on debts and allow the creditors to prepare a final bill to be issued against the estate.
Arrange for Final Financial Settlements
Before any of the estate can be distributed to heirs, the estate must settle all debts. The executor will do this by paying off any outstanding balances on credit cards, loans, final taxes, and other things out of the estate itself. If there is not sufficient liquid money in the estate, the executor will need to sell assets in order to make these payments.
Distribute Assets According to the Will
Once all debts and obligations have been met, the executor will need to distribute assets according to the will. This includes tracking down any heirs that may not be immediately available, if that is the case. While distributing the assets can be a very rewarding experience, it also has the potential for conflict since family members who may have been expecting something that was not in the will could be very disappointed. As the executor, they may take out their frustrations on you.
You Don't Have to Do it Alone
If you were named an executor, you will have a lot that you are responsible for. You do not, however, have to do it all on your own. Having an estate planning attorney working with you can help ensure everything is done properly, and without any legal issues. Contact The Tyra Law Firm to set up a consultation and get everything started right away.