You’ve known this day would come ever since you agreed to the job: A loved one has passed away, and you’re the executor of their estate.
Right now, the burden you carry may feel especially heavy. Whether the deceased was a family member or an old friend, their survivors probably expect you to take the lead and start handling estate-related issues immediately.
Where do you even start?
4 immediate things that the executor of an estate needs to handle
Right now, it’s hard to tell whether the process ahead will be fairly easy or not, but you have to start with the basics:
- Locate the deceased’s will and other important papers and secure their estate. This may mean things like collecting the keys to their home and car, locking away valuable items until it’s time to disburse them and so on. (Do not allow family members to pick through the deceased’s home for mementos at this time.)
- Obtain multiple certified copies of the death certificate. You will need these to deal with creditors, insurance companies, the Social Security Administration and the utility companies, among others.
- File the will with the deceased’s local probate court. This is how you officially open the estate for probate and ask the court to recognize you as the estate’s executor.
- Notify all creditors and heirs about the deceased’s death. Keep in mind that you cannot promise the heirs that they’ll receive anything until the deceased’s debts have been settled and you know what is left to pass out.
There’s still plenty more to do once these steps are finished. You’ll need to set up an estate account, pay any ongoing expenses related to the deceased’s property (like the mortgage and insurance premiums) and file the deceased’s final tax return. At this point, it is wise for executors to turn to professionals for their experienced guidance to get through the more complicated aspects of the probate process.