You’ve been assigned the role of estate executor, also known as estate administrator. Perhaps one of your parents has recently passed away. It’s time to step into this role and help with the legal process.
However, you’ve never done it before. What is an estate executor supposed to do and what obligations do you have? Here are four things you need to do:
1. Get an official death certificate
Often, a death certificate is going to be needed for you to take further action. For instance, maybe you need to close down bank accounts or investment portfolios. You may need to get numerous death certificates to provide them to all of the people who need them to allow you this access
2. Inventory the assets
Additionally, you’re going to need to go through your parents’ estate and take inventory of what they have. There’s no guarantee that the assets they still own are the same ones listed in the estate plan. So the first step – before anyone takes those assets – is to make a complete inventory of everything that exists. This part of the process can lead to disputes if other heirs try to remove assets from the home first, perhaps because of the sentimental value those assets hold.
3. Pay final debts
Next, you’ll need to pay the debts that your parents may have remaining. This could include property taxes, income taxes, bills for utilities, credit card bills and much more. You don’t have to pay these personally, but you do have to use the money from the estate to take care of them.
4. Distribute the remaining assets
Once debts have been paid, then it will be your job to take all the assets that are remaining from the inventory and distribute them. Ideally, the will can tell you exactly how to do this. But there may be cases in which an asset isn’t listed in the will or there is a dispute between different beneficiaries.
Overall, this process can be complex and it can take some time. Make sure that you know about all the legal options at your disposal. Experienced guidance is available to help you through the process.