“I’m an executor, which means I get to take care of a person’s property after they die. It can be a really stressful job, and I have question. I’m a new Executor. What now?”. Maybe you caught yourself asking these questions. Well, we’re here to tell you that it you can do it! You have questions, we have answers. Let’s start.
What is an executor exactly?
Being an executor is a huge responsibility.
The executor of an estate has to take care of all the legal and financial matters of the deceased’s property. This includes paying off debts and distributing assets according to their wishes. It’s not as easy as it sounds!
Executors are responsible for making sure everything goes smoothly. Additionally, they have to carry out their duties in a timely manner and deal with creditors and beneficiaries (if any). And last but least, they are responsible for keeping records of transactions, filing tax returns correctly. If an estate is large enough, an executor may need help from certain people. These usually are lawyers or accountants who specialize in estate administration (also called probate).
Get started - Investigate
Let keep it as simple and straightforward as possible:
Get a copy of the will.
Find out if there are any other documents that you need to file. Think of legal, medical documents but also things related to subscriptions etc.
Find out if there is a will or trust account.
Check for living wills and powers of attorney, as well as medical directives (for example, Do Not Resuscitate orders). These may affect what happens next.
Communication is key!
It’s also good to remember that beneficiaries will often want to take part in the process and check-in with you. While you don’t legally have to do that, it could be a good idea to establish open communication.
Keep in touch with creditors. Especially if there are any questions about their claims or if you need information from them regarding debts.
Communicate regularly with the court and your attorney (if applicable). This way everyone stays on track with deadlines and court orders. If you don’t have an attorney, it’s still important for all parties involved to communicate clearly. This way everyone understands what they need to do at each step along the way.
Be organized, keep records
As a new executor, you’ll be responsible for tracking and documenting everything that’s been done in connection with the estate. You’ll want to keep records of all correspondence. This includes phone calls, emails, letters. Moreover, you have to make sure that you properly have filed and stored all relevant documents.
You should also begin to build your team of helpers and advisers, if relevant. That’s especially useful for larger estates. It may be useful to consult an attorney or accountant as you learn about your role as executor.
Reduce unnecessary expenses
You can also save the estate money by asking the attorney if you eliminate or reduce any unnecessary expenses. For example, you might find out that there is a better way to collect on debts owed by the estate than through a costly lawsuit.
If your client has paid for an expensive final illness policy, you may want to cancel it. Instead, use the money to pay off outstanding bills. These policies are often expensive because they have specific exclusions and limitations. Redirecting funds is crucial here
Don't be quick to take action - make sure you understand the estate first
You are now in a position of great responsibility, so it’s important to proceed with caution. We recommend that you get legal advice and financial advice before taking any steps as executor. In fact, we would suggest that you should consult a professional before even accepting the role of executor.
Be as transparent as possible
When you’re an executor, you are basically the keeper of everyone’s money. You’re responsible for making sure it goes to the right people, and in the right amounts. So transparency is really important here: if the heirs don’t know what’s happening with their inheritance, things can get messy fast. And if there are any issues with how you handled their money and they feel they’ve been treated unfairly? That’s when things get even messier.
The court also has a vested interest in knowing where everything went and why. Therefore, make sure that information is available at all times!
Know your limits and ask for help
It can be very hard to know where to start, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re lucky enough to have an estate planner or lawyer working with you, take advantage of their expertise. Asking as many questions as possible about the process can be very beneficial. The more information you have, the better prepared and calmer you’ll feel during this time of transition.
When it comes time for any sort of decision making it’s important that the executor is up-to-date on all financial matters. You need to have a good understanding of what needs to happen next. If there are others involved in making these decisions, make sure they understand their roles in this process too.
Examples of common question
I'm an executor in Pennsylvania. Can I act as the executor in New Jersey, too?
If you’re an executor in one state and would like to act as an executor for your relative in another state, it is possible. You just have to make sure that you have the authority and qualifications necessary in both states.
To do this, speak with a lawyer who can help guide you through the process. You may need additional paperwork or documents. If so, your lawyer will let you know what they are and how best to obtain them.
Someone wants money from the estate. Can they have it?
As the executor, you’re likely getting questions from creditors and family about what’s going on with the estate. The good news is that there are laws in place to help protect your role as an executor.
Firstly, it may be tempting to expedite things by simply giving someone some money out of the estate. Let’s say then need medical assistance. It’s not okay for you to do this. You have a fiduciary duty toward the estate and its beneficiaries. This means that if one person wants money from the estate they would have to wait until you pay all the bills. Only then can a beneficiary get their share.
If there isn’t any will at all (and no trust agreement), then this becomes even more important. Now everything goes through probate in court and your role as an executor couldn’t be more significant. Everyone involved needs protections against potential fraudsters who might try using loopholes like claiming “advancement”.
As an executor, you have a lot of responsibility and it is important to make sure that you are prepared for what lies ahead. You don’t have to do everything on your own, though! There are resources out there that can help you with many aspects of the job.
Myend offers the perfect estate and end-of-life planning for all! This way navigating such complicated issues gets easier. Have a look here to learn more. And if you’re ready for action, sign up today for your free account! The estate planning of the future is here today.