They often say there are only two certainties in this world: death and taxes. Because death is always guaranteed, most people take out a will and testament to ensure that any last wishes that they have been executed properly. They want to know that their possessions, property, desires, and even finances are distributed evenly among his or her remaining family members. In order to make sure it’s done fairly, and executor of the will is often assigned.
Being an executor of a will isn’t always an easy job. It might feel like an honor to be chosen to do it, but it’s not going to be an easy task. Often times, when a family member dies, it can tear a huge rift within a family. Some people expected to receive more or they didn’t get everything that they wanted after their loved one died. Either way, you must not give in to pressure and follow the will exactly as it explains, your best option is to get an estate planning attorney to help you with all the questions you may have.
The job is a lot more than just passing out what’s left after someone dies. If the deceased has a lot of debt left, then it’s the executor’s job to pay off that they can before they even start distributing money to loved ones. This responsibility isn’t the same as having a power of attorney. Typically, power of attorneys only help make healthcare decisions for someone who is incapacitated while they’re still living. An executor is for after they’ve passed away.
What Are All the Responsibilities of An Executor?
An executor’s main job is to distribute or dispose of the property and possessions of a deceased person. That can be splitting it among family members or selling it at the family’s request. It’s not required that someone given the responsibilities of an executor be some type of financial or legal expert to fulfill the role. But it does require that the person is honest about how they go about completing the task for the sake of the family.
Fiduciary duty is often the legalese that holds an executor to a binding good faith decision in executing a person’s will and testament. If you’ve been chosen for this role, you are not entitled to money, property, or possessions. This is why honesty is often given within this responsibility. You must act in good faith and not look to profit by requiring a certain percentage of money for selling the property or when distributing money.
You may receive a fee from executing the will as stated. Some states do say that an executor is entitled to a fee to help compensate for the work that goes into executing a will. Other than this fee, you shouldn’t expect to be given more by any family or friends of the deceased. You also shouldn’t give more to one person who promises to cut you in if you do. Again, honesty plays a big role in taking on this responsibility.
What’s the Role of an Executor?
An executor might have many roles and several of them can be complex and time-consuming. It all comes down to what the deceased wanted to build upon their death. They may want things done a particular way and property distributed evenly. Let’s take a look at several things that an executor’s duties might include.
Finding the Deceased’s Assets
This is really the first step of the process. As the executor of the will, it is your responsibility to find and keep safe any assets that will later be distributed. As stated above, families can fight over different assets or amounts of money, claiming that they were promised X, Y, and Z. That’s why it’s your job to secure all the assets and to distribute them as it’s written in the will. Other types of management might include selling assets or properties or deciding which ones to keep.
Deciding on Probate Court
If there is a dispute within the family, taking the will and testament of the deceased to a court may be the only way to solve it. This is called probate and it helps settle disputes by having a judge decide on the validity of the well. This is usually reserved for people who leave a lot of money or the family is fighting over something extremely valuable. In these types of fights, one person might question and/or challenge the validity of the will. Going to a probate court would help fix that problem so you can do your job properly. Legally, you still have to file the will in probate court even if there is no challenge.
Find and Contact the Mentioned
Another part of your job is finding everyone who is mentioned in the will and contacting them. They should be alerted right away that they are due to inherit whatever was given to them. It’s not just contacting them, but making sure that everything is done legally so that the people named get what was left to them.
Taking Care of the Deceased’s Affairs
After someone passes away, there’s a lot of affairs that need to be concluded. For example, if they have credit cards, credit cards need to be closed. Debt needs to be paid off. If they were older and/or disabled, then the Social Security Administration should be contacted so that any benefits they were receiving can be canceled.
Getting a Separate Bank Account
You can’t take the deceased’s money and add it to your bank account. You might be legally required to open a new account in the name of the estate so you can then pay off remaining debts. You may also need to continue making payments on behalf of the deceased until the will is administered and everything handed over and/or sold.
Getting Finances Squared Away
Again, this was previously mentioned, but all the deceased’s debts must be paid off, include paying whatever they might owe in income taxes. You would start by calling all the debtors to find out what they would like to do now that the person owning the account has passed away.
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