Have you been named as an executor for a loved one’s estate? As an executor your job is to organize and settle the affairs of your family member. Whether you have been named by a Last Will and Testament or by a court of law in the case of an estate without a Will, it is important to understand your duties.
Organize the Estate
The first step is to identify what the estate includes. Try to locate all estate documents. If you have been appointed by the court, you may not have to worry about this step since it may have already been determined that no estate documents exist.
If a Will does exist you should use it to list all beneficiaries. If no Will exists, heirs will be determined by state law. In either case, you will have to locate assets and debts on your own.
Probate the Estate
Once you have a general idea of the estate, you should meet with an attorney to begin probate. Probate is the court-supervised process by which you will settle the decedent’s affairs.
Every estate asset must be appraised for the date of death value. Next, with the help of an attorney, you must contact all known creditors. In case any creditors are unknown, you will place a notice in the local newspaper.
You will use estate funds to pay debts. If funds are not available, you may have to sell property. You will also be responsible for paying all taxes associated with the estate from its assets. You must file the final income tax return for the decedent, as well as the estate tax return if estate and inheritance taxes are applicable. You may wish to contact an accountant for assistance.
When all taxes and debts have been paid, the Court will order you to give the beneficiaries what remains of the estate. If there was no Last Will and Testament, your attorney can help you determine who the heirs at law are based upon the state intestacy laws.
It is very important to make sure all taxes and debts are paid and you receive a Court order before you hand out inheritances. If you do not, you will be financially responsible for unpaid debts and taxes.
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