A few years ago, when your favorite uncle was still in good health, he asked if you would consent to becoming his executor. You agreed, and he named you as such in his will.
Unfortunately, Uncle Ned passed away unexpectedly. You now face the job of administering his estate. Here are six tips to help you succeed.
1. Get the death certificate
As executor, you will be responsible for making Uncle Ned’s funeral and burial arrangements. The funeral home will provide you with copies of the death certificate. Entities who need a copy may include the Social Security Administration, your uncle’s bank, his investment firm and perhaps the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
2. Locate the will
The attorney who drew up the will should know the location of this document. You must file a copy with the probate court.
3. File letters testamentary
You must also file letters testamentary so the court can confirm you as the executor of Uncle Ned’s estate and your legal ability to act on his behalf.
4. Protect the assets
You are responsible for protecting and managing estate assets while the probate process is underway. Do not allow any of the beneficiaries to harass you or take anything from the estate until probate is over.
5. Pay bills and file taxes
Ensure that assets can cover the debts and taxes owed. If not, the judge will prioritize creditors. The court will not require heirs to pay the deceased's debts.
6. Seek professional advice
Do not be afraid to ask for advice from an attorney, an accountant, an appraiser or any other professional who could offer help. Because you are legally responsible for managing your Uncle’s affairs, you cannot afford any missteps.
Do not hurry the process
Rely on guidance from the attorney and other professionals so you can complete your work in a timely fashion and without error. The beneficiaries will appreciate your attention to detail, and you will have earned the faith your late uncle displayed in choosing you as his executor.