If you have been appointed an executor (or personal representative) of an estate, you might, at first, feel honored. It is an honor – only the most trusted and responsible of the deceased's relatives and acquaintances will be appointed to such a job. There is a lot more to taking on this task than some might believe, however, and knowing what to expect is both necessary and beneficial. To learn how to address three major executor responsibilities better, read on.
Know About the Assets – Estates can be simple or complex and much of what determines the workload is the value. Probate requires that the executor perform an inventory of the estate to establish its value, soon after the will has been filed in court. While each and every coffee mug doesn't need to be counted, you should be prepared to make a list of anything of value contained in the estate. Commonly, that will include the home, vehicles, bank, investment, retirement accounts, and more.
Deal With Family Members – A trap can be waiting for some executors when it comes to the assets of the estate. Family members will want to claim various items and some that are not even listed in the will might attempt to take advantage of the situation to gain property. As the executor, it is your responsibility to keep the assets of the estate undisturbed until you get the go-ahead from the probate court. In fact, you could be held liable for not keeping estate property safe. For example, if you find out that a family member has entered the home and taken valuable artwork that was meant to go to a museum, you must report it to the police, or you could be sued. If you need to change the locks or set up other security measures, then do so – it's part of your job.
Know How to Deal With Bills – Part of the probate process is to pay the financial obligations the deceased left behind. There is, however, a specific order in which to pay them. To help both you and family members understand how bills are paid, you must realize that the estate, while in probate, is temporarily out of the control of anyone but the probate judge. Some creditors take a priority and this is based on the notion that if the money runs out before all the bills are paid, the most important creditors will be taken care of first. In general, tax debts should be paid first. That means federal, state, property, and others. Among other first priorities are funeral and legal expenses. Since you need to make the family home secure during probate, keeping the electricity and water running is another priority. Credit card bills and medical bills, however, are very low on the list and can wait for the estate to complete probate. This important issue should be discussed with the probate or estate attorney. They can provide you with a list of bills that need to be paid first and those that should wait till later.
Speak to the estate or probate attorney, like those at McFarland & Masters LLC, to find out more.