An executor takes on a LOT of responsibility once the person behind an estate passes away. Because of this, an executor is the most important person in an estate and takes a lot of consideration to select. We understand this is a lot of pressure, so we want to make sure you’re ready should that day come.
The best protection from headaches later in the estate process is to get ahead of any problems. This means you should remain in contact with the person behind the estate and ensure you understand their wishes. You don’t necessarily need to be there during every step in the estate planning process, but you should review any final documents and ask any questions.
Once you have an understanding of the wishes of the estate, you should have a timeline and keep documentation for all beneficiaries along with the estate’s attorney. Much of this documentation is likely to be included in documents created during the estate planning process, but there’s no harm in being extra prepared.
This could vary depending on where the estate is located, but you will likely need to obtain a death certificate along with any official estate documents at the time of death. These documents will be constantly referenced during the probate process (which we’ll talk about in a moment).
There’s nothing worse for an estate than an executor trying to do things off memory, even if you have the best intentions. Get everything in writing and make sure you keep the documentation in a safe, accessible place.
If you’re the executor of a trust you won’t have to worry about this because trusts are not subject to probate. However, estate plans centered around a will must go through probate court.
Probate court ensures the effective and legal administration of an estate. The court will read through all estate documents as they pertain to beneficiaries and future needs of the estate. Different jurisdictions will have different rules, so you will need to understand the rules as they pertain to where the estate goes through probate. This is also the point where the will can be contested, so you will be the point person for interpreting the intentions of the estate.
This step is key. When someone dies, their debt can be passed on to heirs or other designated people. If there are outstanding debts, you should pay those off before distributing assets to beneficiaries. It’s possible the person behind the estate failed to properly allocate funding for this, so you may be put in a position to lower the assets going to beneficiaries in order to ensure debt payments.
The courts are likely to remind you of this frequently, and it’s likely officials will freeze or even seize estate assets until debts are taken care of. If a beneficiary comes to you and tries to leverage their assets, stay firm and remind them failing to pay the estate’s debts can put all assets at risk.
The right attorney can make all the difference for an estate. You should work with the estate attorney, and you can also retain your own attorney to protect yourself if conflicts arise during your time as executor.
At Anthoor Law Group, we want to help you do the right thing for your estate. We have experience handling different aspects of estate planning and executing. Contact your local Bay Area Estate Planning and Family Law Firm today!
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