If you have been chosen to serve as an estate executor for someone’s will, you have been entrusted with a very important task. Your role as executor is to track down and supervise the distribution of the deceased’s property/belongings. Here, the estate planning and administration attorneys at Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger provide a checklist to ensure an estate executor is successful when carrying out his or her duties.
There are several steps to ensuring the successful distribution of assets that belonged to the deceased before the estate may be closed. Here are some considerations while overseeing the administration process.
Depending on the size of the estate, you may or may not have to determine if probate is necessary. Probate is not necessary for many common assets. You may do the following without probate:
- pass on real estate or other assets in joint tenancy to the surviving joint tenant
- Transfer funds in IRA’s to named beneficiaries
- Transfer bank accounts and securities registered in “payable on death” form to beneficiaries
Seek Legal Advice
Although executors are able to carry out their duties without a lawyer, it is highly recommended that you have some legal guidance through this process. Hiring a lawyer may be a great choice, they can provide valuable advice on estates that may have multiple properties in case of any complications you may encounter.
File the Will & Notify Beneficiaries
File the will at the local probate court. You will then need to send the notice to the beneficiaries named in the will, along with close relatives such as a surviving spouse or children. These members of the family would have been entitled to the property had no valid will.
Firstly, locate the deceased’s assets. Once they have been secured, you will need to manage them as best you can. Depending on what they are this may involve maintenance or conservation. The assets may be liquidated depending on the financial state of the estate.
During this time, you will also handle the day to day responsibilities that come with managing the estate. Responsibilities such as terminating leases, contracts, and alerting banks as well as other agencies of the previous estate holder’s death.
You will also need to establish an estate bank account. This will hold any outstanding money that the deceased is owed i.e. paychecks, stocks etc.
Pay Expenses and Settle Debts
The executor will be responsible for paying any continuing debts such as mortgages, homeowners insurance, utilities etc. the executor will also be responsible for paying income taxes and file an income tax return for the year in which the person died.
Pay any debts that the estate is legally required to. Creditors will need to be notified on the persons death, this will be carried out by the state if you include the creditors in the probate proceedings.
Distribute the Property and Close the Estate
The estate executor will supervise the distribution of assets among those who were included in the will. Once this has happened and any outstanding debts or taxes have been paid the executor may ask the probate court to formally close the estate.
As mentioned above, although it is not illegal to carry out the duties of an estate executor without legal advice, it is highly recommended that you do. The role of an estate executor can have some unforeseen hurdles along the way, having sound legal advice can help you navigate through those hurdles. If you have been designated as an estate executor and have any inquiries, contact the law offices of Snee, Lutche, Helmlinger & Spielberger today!