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Tips for the Executor of an Estate

Law Offices of David W. Wilcox Feb. 23, 2022

Creating a comprehensive estate plan is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. Estate planning will give you peace of mind regardless of your age or how large your estate is. By taking this crucial step, you can allocate your assets to your chosen beneficiaries while minimizing the burden to your friends and family after you pass.

Perhaps the most important thing you’ll need to decide is who your executor will be as this person will play a major role in the execution of your estate. If you have questions about the role of an executor, or if you’ve been named executor of someone else’s estate plan, you must know what your duties and responsibilities will be when the time comes. For legal assistance with this or any other estate planning needs in Bradenton, Florida, contact the Law Offices of David W. Wilcox.

Seven Important Tips for the Executor of the Estate

If you’re the executor of an estate, you have a big job ahead of you. But, if you stay organized and diligent, you’ll make it through. Many of your tasks you can complete on your own, but for others, you may wish to consult with an attorney to ensure all the legal steps are followed. Keep these seven tips in mind as you go.

#1: See to the decedent’s loved ones, such as minor children and pets.

Grieving the loss of a loved one is never easy, but when they leave behind minor children, it can make it that much harder. Before you get into the hard work, make sure that those most vulnerable are taken care of. If the deceased did not leave behind a spouse or co-parent, their estate plan should name a guardian for any minor children. They may have also named someone to care for any pets that were left behind.

#2: Notify family, friends, employers, coworkers, banks, Social Security, and insurance companies.

Any named beneficiary in the estate plan should be notified in a timely manner about the death and that they’ve been left something. This doesn’t mean they’ll get it right away (that could take months), but they need to be alerted. You’ll also need to notify other people and institutions that the deceased had an important relationship with, such as friends, employers, or coworkers. Lastly, you’ll need to notify financial institutions like banks, insurance companies, creditors, or investment brokers.

#3: Eliminate any unnecessary expenses, such as phone plans, memberships, and subscriptions.

When you take on the role of estate representative, you’re now responsible for their finances as well. This includes bills and debts, so take a look at any unnecessary expenses that you can cancel right away. This may be a phone plan, gym membership, subscriptions, or TV and streaming services. By stopping these right away, you’ll save yourself future headaches and save the estate needless expenses.

#4: Gather important documentation.

As you work through the estate, you’ll need to provide certain entities with documentation to gain access to accounts. Gather all these upfront so you’ll have them ready to go when you need them. This includes the legal pronouncement of death, a copy of the will or trust, and death certificates.

#5: Hire an estate administration attorney.

Many people will wish to hire an estate administration attorney at some point in this process, but it may not be necessary if the estate is rather small and straightforward. However, even just consulting with an attorney can prove an invaluable tool to answer questions when they come up. You can also hire a lawyer to do everything, and their fees can usually be paid from the estate.

#6: Communicate regularly with your attorney and keep track of who is in charge of what tasks.

If you do hire an attorney to take over the bulk of the work, that doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. You should still be an active participant in the process and communicate regularly with them. You may also still find yourself involved as you maintain contact with the family and friends of the deceased.

#7: Do not disperse assets to beneficiaries until the process is finalized and all debts have been paid.

Many people who’ve been named as beneficiaries assume they can get their assets right away, but this process can take several months to a year to complete. As the executor, you’re responsible for everything that was left behind, including assets, accounts, and debts. In many cases, you’ll need to have certain assets assessed, and you’ll have to notify creditors and give them a sufficient amount of time to respond. All debts should be paid before assets are distributed, and by taking your time, you’ll ensure it’s all been done correctly and that you’ve honored the wishes of the deceased.

Getting the Experienced Legal Guidance You Need

The role of an executor isn’t easy, but it is doable. You were chosen because you’re an intelligent and organized individual, but everyone can use some help. If you're in Bradenton, Florida, Matinee County, or Sarasota County, call the Law Offices of David W. Wilcox today to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.