When the time comes to execute the will of a loved one or friend, you may find yourself with a growing list of duties and chores you didn’t quite anticipate when you accepted the commitment. Here is some friendly advice from attorneys and other experts.
You Are Running Another Life!
It is odd of course, but when someone dies and you are “putting their affairs in order,” you are, in a way, running their last mile for them. As observed in AARP:
Prepare for administrative hassles to add up — duties like maintaining and selling an unoccupied house, stopping Social Security payments, settling any debts, closing financial accounts and meeting tax filings. “You are running another life,” says Sheila Samuels, a trusts and estates attorney in New York and New Jersey.
Among your first duties as executor is obtaining the death certificate. It is advisable to obtain extra copies. You will likely need them for other tasks like cancelling credit cards, selling property, transferring a car title or shutting off utilities. These are practical examples of the tasks you will take care of as executor. In ideal circumstances, you and your loved one will have had plenty of opportunity to review both intentions and practical matters—like the whereabouts of documents, accounts and passwords before you actually begin service as the executor.
Though the process differs a little bit in each state, generally, as executor, you must file the death certificate with an original copy of the will in probate court. You will then be given a letter of testamentary. This officially recognizes you as the executor and enables you to begin taking actions on behalf of the estate. Executors have a fiduciary obligation to act in the best interests of the estate and beneficiaries, avoiding conflicts of interest. That’s why probate courts sometimes request executors to obtain a type of fiduciary bond known as an executor or estate bond.
When a bond is requested during the probate process, it’s important to obtain it quickly, to avoid delays. Let Colonial Surety Company, a leading national fiduciary bond provider, help. At Colonial, the steps to obtaining executor and other bonds are quick and easy: get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter the payment method. Instantly print or e-file the bond right from anywhere—even probate court.
Pay The Bills Before Distributing Assets
After getting a clear picture of all money owed, executors pay the bills—and the taxes—using funds from the estate. Unless the estate is complicated, the probate process commonly takes a few months to a year. Many states have developed expedited processes, especially for modest estates. Unpaid taxes, debts, conflicts among family members or contested wills are examples of what can cause complexities and delays during probate. It is important for executors to understand:
Heirs can’t be paid until all taxes and debts of the estate are settled. Be upfront that it might take a year or more before they will receive payment, says New York and New Jersey trusts and estates attorney Allison J. Busch. When payments are distributed, you’ll want heirs to sign documents releasing you from further liability and agreeing to pay their fair share of any estate debts that may arise….
Keeping beneficiaries up to date on your efforts as an executor will ensure there are no misunderstandings when you reach the end of your to do list. Be sure to document all of the transactions you conduct on behalf of the estate too—probate reports will expect an accounting as the process wraps up.
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