Being chosen to be an executor is both an honor and a tremendous responsibility. Only the most trusted friends or family members are given this opportunity, which involves so much more than just following the wishes of the deceased. Many people are uncertain about what the duties of an executor are exactly, so read on to learn about the 8 simple steps involved.
1. Gather Documents
One of your first duties should be locating important documents, some of which will be needed to make funeral and burial arrangements. Locate the following:
- Burial and life insurance policies, which will be needed immediately
- The will, since people sometimes include burial instructions within it. If it cannot be located quickly, the estate attorney will be able to provide you with a copy
- Safe deposit box keys and the contents
- Trust documents
- Bank accounts
- Retirement and investment accounts.
- Property deeds (real estate)
- Titles to vehicles
- Social Security number
- Tax returns
- Several original certified copies of the death certificate (usually available a few weeks after the death)
2. Assist with Funeral Arrangements
The main function of the executor is to ensure that funds are available for the burial and to follow the deceased's wishes for the arrangements. Funds may come from (in this order):
- The burial policy
- The life insurance policy
- Checking or savings account funds
3. Read the Will
Read the will thoroughly and be sure you fully understand the decedent's wishes. Although you must wait for the will to pass through probate, you should begin to plan how the estate will be disbursed and make arrangements. For example, if the family home is to be sold, you may need to make repairs to ready the house for sale, which may be accomplished during probate.
4. File the Will with Probate Court
While the estate attorney is responsible for filing the will in your local probate clerk, you must oversee this process and stay apprised of the probate's progress. Once the notice to creditors has been published in a local paper, you must deal with any creditors that step forward with a claim against the estate
5. Pay the Bills
Work closely with an estate attorney, like Hamilton Michaelson & Hilty LLP, before paying any bills, since some bills may be paid during probate and others must wait until probate has been completed.
6. File and Pay the Income Taxes
One of the most important duties is to take care of the income taxes. Ensure that taxes are filed and paid in a timely manner. This must be done during probate, and probate cannot be final until this is done.
7. Alert Social Security
If the deceased was receiving Social Security payments, you must alert them as soon as you have certified death certificates on hand. Since direct deposit is common with these payments, act as quickly as possible to avoid making an over-payment.
8. Provide Death Certificates
Original, certified copies of the death certificate are required by the Social Security Administration, Medicare, banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, and others.
Consult with your estate attorney for more information about the duties of an executor.