Death is not an easy matter to deal with. This is especially true if you have been named the executor of an estate. It is a burden and responsibility that few people want and welcome. However, if the departed named you their executor, it was because of the trust and confidence they had in you. It is a task you are bound to take up and do well. And if you are organized and methodical, you can carry out the wishes of the deceased to the letter.
Why You Need Help
As the executor, you are the personal representative of the estate. You are legally responsible for protecting the assets of the deceased person until the probate process is complete and they have been divided and distributed. If you have no training in estate planning or probate law, the process can be difficult to understand. Indeed, you will most likely know nothing about the legal side of it. And without this specialized knowledge, you won’t be able to do your job as an executor.
Here are 7 reasons why you should seek assistance as the executor of an estate:
1. You will need to obtain the death certificate
As the executor of the estate, you will need to make the funeral and burial arrangements. This is not a difficult process, and the estate can pay for the costs. However, the first thing you’ll need to do is to obtain the death certificate. You should seek the advice of an estate planning lawyer such as those found at CNG Sunshine Coast.
Numerous institutions will need a copy of the death certificate, including banks, investment firms, life insurance companies, Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration. A lawyer can analyze the estate of the deceased and determine the number of copies needed and who they must go to.
2. Securing wills and trusts
The person who informed you that you are the executor probably has a copy of the will. It will most likely be the lawyer of the deceased. You should confirm that the will that is to be executed was truly their last will and testament. You will then need the lawyer’s advice in submitting it to probate court and having it accepted and validated.
The will should be filed no later than a month after the death. If the person had a living trust, you will need help determining whether it was set up properly. If it has, the assets can be distributed immediately. If it hasn’t, then the lawyer can help you resolve any problems with it.
3. Filing “letters testamentary”
The probate court will need to legally confirm your appointment as executor. This is called letters testamentary and is usually a formality. However, you should work with a lawyer to ensure that everything goes smoothly. You will need to present documents that prove you have the legal authority to represent the estate. You won’t be able to manage or distribute assets, pay bills, or deal with beneficiaries until you receive this certification.
4. Locating and protecting assets
You can’t execute a will if you don’t know the location, nature, and value of all the assets. Locating and protecting the latter is the most important action you will take as executor. And you will need help doing it.
The deceased may have had assets entangled in financial instruments and devices of bewildering complexity. Estate planning lawyers specialize in tracking such assets down and making them intelligible enough to secure, move, protect, and liquidate. They will help you draw up a detailed list of the assets and where to find them. You will need documents and statements that discern and describe wills and trusts, investment accounts, insurance policies, bank accounts, homes and works of art, business shares, stocks and bonds, valuable antiques, and other such items.
You may also need access to the bank safe deposit box of the deceased. Many people keep confidential information in such units. Before you can make any decisions on the estate, you must have all the information, including what may be stored in a safe deposit box.
5. Paying Bills and Taxes
The estate of the deceased must pay all their outstanding debts. As the executor, you must ensure that the estate has the assets to cover them. Things can get tricky if the debt exceeds assets. A probate judge could prioritize the creditors. In any case, you will need the advice and insight of a lawyer. They can bring in an accountant who can help you sift through the records of the deceased to get the most accurate picture possible of where they stand on each debt. You will also need to open a bank account in the name of the estate so that you can pay these bills.
6. Ensuring Fairness
If any part of the will is contested by family members, things can get difficult. There are instances in which the validity of a will can be contested. An estate planning or probate lawyer can advise you on how to handle such matters so that all beneficiaries are treated with fairness and the intent of the deceased is respected.
7. Protecting Yourself
You should not rush the process of executing a will. The beneficiaries may push you to get their money and other items that have been bestowed to them. However, you must follow the letter of the law. If you don’t, you can be held personally liable. Working with a lawyer will help you avoid such missteps.
Your role as executor is an important and essential one. At first, the job may seem overwhelming. You may lack the confidence to accept the position and carry out your task. However, you should take a moment to consider your options; the most important being to seek advice from a lawyer who specializes in such matters. If the deceased had an estate of value, then they no doubt had a lawyer. The latter is the first person you should go to for help.