Being named the Executor of a friend or family’s estate happens quite often. Many adult children are told that at some point they’ll be responsible for handling their parents’ financial affairs when the time comes. It’s hard enough to think about losing a loved one, much less thinking about what to do when you suddenly become an Executor with myriad responsibilities. We advise our clients to become educated in how to take care of things ahead of time, at least a little bit. Then, when the duty falls on you down the road, you’ll be prepared to take on the task with confidence.
Here’s the Executor checklist:
Locate key financial paperwork:
Will to file with the probate court
Account statements, tax returns, bank records
House deeds and titles to vehicles
Social security information
Life insurance policies
Order multiple original death certificates. Err on the side of having more than enough, so you don’t have to go through the process multiple times. You’ll need the death certificate to change the ownership on any investment accounts, prepare the estate tax return, and have the Will admitted to the probate court.
Notify the decedent’s employer, banks, and credit card companies. Also make sure any government agencies are informed. You must pay any valid debts of the deceased party. It’s key to use estate funds to pay any continuing expenses or debts, such as mortgage payments, utility bills, homeowner’s insurance, and the like.
Hire a lawyer if necessary. Lawyers can be extremely helpful as a resource for any Executor. Legal counsel is also recommended during probate or if there is no Will. Finally, if the beneficiaries of the estate are raising concerns, having a lawyer available can help quite a bit.
Set up an estate bank account if needed.
Maintain the property of the deceased. It’s your responsibility to make sure it’s cared for properly until it can be sold or distributed to the beneficiaries.
Acting as an Executor can be a lot to take on. Keep in mind this list is certainly not all inclusive, and everyone’s situation is unique. If you’d like to dive a little deeper into the overall probate process, here’s a helpful link. Need any additional guidance? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.