Finding out that you have been named the executor of someone's estate can be a bit stressful. You may worry whether you'll be able to make the right decisions or how you will get everything done in the months that follow. Here are some guidelines and tips you can follow the handle your responsibilities as an executor without losing your cool.
1. Obtain copies of the death certificate
As you go about executing the will, you will run into many circumstances where you need the death certificate. The cemetery will ask for it, various lawyers may need it, and the deceased's banks and credit card companies may ask for a copy. Contact the hospital or funeral home where your deceased loved one passed and is being handled, and ask for these copies. Get at least three copies so you have extras on hand if anyone needs an original.
2. Meet with a lawyer
As soon as you find out who the deceased used as their estate lawyer, meet with this person to discuss the estate and your duties. The lawyer can let you know what your exact responsibilities are, which should give you some peace of mind going into this process. Most estate lawyers will be happy to field your calls throughout the executing process if you have questions and it's helpful to be able to reach out to an estate law service.
3. Locate the assets
Once you have met with a lawyer and obtained a copy of the will, you will have an idea of what assets you need to divide. Before you go about dividing them, you need to find out where they are. Some assets may be being kept with family members or in storage units. Gather them all in one place so you can make sure everything is accounted for.
4. Pay off bills first
Dividing the physical assets is usually easier than dividing the money. That's because to divide the money, you first much find out how much there is — which requires that you pay off all the deceased's bills. After you think you've paid off the bills, give it a month or two to see if anything else comes in. Once you're confident everything has been paid, you can distribute the money based on the will.
If you need additional advice on executing the will, reach out to a deceased estate law firm, such as P J Griffin & Co. This can be a tough process, but many people do it every year, and you can, too.