To be named as an executor in someone’s Will is both an incredible honor and a great deal of pressure and responsibility. The role of the executor involves being incredibly organized, having foresight, and being detail-oriented to ensure that everything is done correctly, and everyone involved is treated fairly. If this is your first rodeo in settling a loved one’s estate, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and daunted by the task at hand.
Handling the estate of a loved one or friend is a huge responsibility. Your loved one must have thought very highly of you to leave you with this important duty of overseeing his or her end-of-life affairs. Yet along with the humbleness you may be experiencing right now, you might also feel stressed out, confused, and overwhelmed as you try to figure out the best way to administer your loved one’s estate.
First things first…
What does the executor of a will do?
An executor is responsible for managing the estate of a deceased person during the probate process. The main duties during probate include:
- Filing the will with the court and initiating the probate process.
- Identifying and locating all the assets of the deceased person, which may include bank accounts, real estate, personal property, and investments.
- Notifying all creditors and potential heirs of the death and the Probate process.
- Paying any outstanding debts, expenses, or taxes owed by the estate.
- Distributing assets and property to the beneficiaries named in the Will – or according to the laws of intestacy if there is no Will.
- Filing any necessary tax returns on behalf of the estate.
Throughout the Probate process, the executor is responsible for maintaining accurate records and keeping all beneficiaries and interested parties informed of the progress of the Probate proceedings unless the parties have waived the right. The executor must act in the best interests of the estate and the beneficiaries and follow the legal requirements of the Probate court.
Now these duties can be a lot for anyone, especially those going through the grieving process. Being an executor also means taking on a significant amount of liability and you will need to protect yourself and ensure that you’re doing everything correctly.
Here are three useful tips to guide you in your duties as executor of a Will.
Tip #1 Get help from an experienced Estate Probate attorney
Having a legal professional in your corner not only helps you avoid pitfalls and blind spots, but it will also give you greater peace of mind during the process. In fact, in some states like Texas, only a licensed attorney can represent the person named in a Will or appointed by a court to
oversee the Probate estate. This means that as a person filing to Probate your deceased friend or loved one’s estate you MUST hire an attorney. Remember that you’re allowed to hire professionals to assist you, and their fees can ultimately be paid from the deceased person’s estate. Realize that most people do not leave readily available funds to hire an attorney at their death. As the executor, you may have to put up your own money to get the process started.
It is also always a good idea to discuss your responsibilities with an attorney before you take action.
Tip #2 is all about keeping everything organized and under control
Start by ensuring property that belongs to the decedent’s estate is secured. Next, gather all the necessary paperwork, including Estate Planning documents, bills, financial statements, insurance policies, and contact information for beneficiaries. Creating a file or binder where you can keep all this information in one place is an excellent way to stay on top of things. Additionally, if the deceased person had a bank account notify the bank of the death. Gather bank records, and determine if any insurance policies are payable to the estate.
Tip #3 establish open and honest lines of communication with everyone involved in the Probate process
As an executor, you are the liaison between multiple parties involved in the Probate process. This includes the courts, creditors, the Internal Revenue Service, beneficiaries, and heirs. Maintaining a current contact list and recording notes about phone calls and correspondence can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and reduce the risk of disputes. Remember that keeping records of all communications is essential, so you can always recall what was said to whom.
There are many things that you can do on your own as the personal representative of the estate. While open communication can help manage tempers and personalities, you should remember that you are serving in a fiduciary role and a great deal of personal liability comes attached to that. It is wise to discuss with an attorney your communications with beneficiaries and heirs of an estate.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed as an executor, don’t hesitate to seek skilled counsel and advice to help you through the process. If you are in Texas, remember that you cannot represent yourself as the executor or administrator of an estate and you must hire an attorney.
An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance and support, and may even be able to help you draft your own Estate Plan to avoid Probate stress for your loved ones. Call on the Law Office of Antoinette Bone, PLLC to be your Probate Easy Button for handling Probate matters in the Tarrant and Dallas counties. If you need to get your Estate Planning affairs in order, call our office today at (682) 428-3046 to schedule appointment.
To comply with the U.S. Treasury regulations, we must inform you that (i) any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this newsletter was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any person for the purpose of avoiding U.S. federal tax penalties that may be imposed on such person and (ii) each taxpayer should seek advice from their tax advisor based on the taxpayer’s particular circumstances.
Nothing in this message is intended to provide legal advice. This message is for educational purposes only.