When your best friend or a family member asked you to be the executor of their estate, you probably said something like, “Sure, but that will be long time from now.” Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, but that day is here. The responsibilities may seem enormous, or perhaps you’re not sure what responsibilities you even have.
If the deceased person put a detailed estate plan in place, that helps a lot. Whether they did or not, it’s a good idea to seek professional guidance. Their estate planning attorney can help you. You may want to bring in financial, tax and real estate pros as well.
There are things you’ll need to do right away, like notify the post office, financial institutions and any places they were receiving benefits from, like Social Security and Medicare. You need to be aware of any bills that have to be paid while the estate is being settled, and you’ll have to submit a final tax return.
You’ll need to secure their home and belongings until they can be disbursed among heirs and beneficiaries as they directed. If they wanted their home to be sold and the proceeds to go to the estate for distribution, that will be one of your biggest jobs. Again, though, you should seek legal as well as real estate advice.
If the deceased person wanted their belongings left to family, friends and/or charitable organizations, you’ll want to clear those out and make sure that they’re safeguarded until they can be given to the appropriate beneficiaries. Sometimes, people will ask that their furniture and other household items be sold at an estate auction and the proceeds put back in the estate.
When it’s time to get the home ready for sale, your realtor can help you determine whether it’s best to fix it up or to sell it as-is. Sometimes a few thousand dollars spent on renovations and updates can yield significantly more money when you put it on the market.
If your loved one or friend didn’t leave much direction or have a current estate planning attorney, it’s advisable to find an attorney in the area who can advise you as you undertake this job. Too many executors make innocent mistakes that land them in trouble with the law. You can avoid that by getting good legal guidance.