At first glance, being asked to serve as executor may seem like an honour. After all, it indicates that someone trusts you enough to handle what matters the most to them. While in some cases this certainly rings true, taking on the role of an estate executor has the potential to be a long, thankless job.
Whether you are considering serving as a loved one's executor or have unexpectedly found yourself in the position, it is important to be informed. From understanding the basics to getting the right help, consider this an introductory lesson to the essentials of executorship.
What Does an Executor Do?
The role of the executor is multifaceted. First and foremost, they are responsible for handling the estate of a person (the testator) after they die. In some cases, the process is relatively straightforward, especially if the testator had a comprehensive will in place. In other instances, executors are tasked with jobs like finding long-lost relatives, contending with significant debts incurred by the deceased, or handling disputes brought on by contentious family dynamics.
First Things First
In most cases, the first thing that an executor should do is enlist the help of an experienced wills and estates lawyer. There is a lot at stake, especially where beneficiaries are concerned, and even an accidental oversight has the potential for serious implications. A lawyer can help put the estate administration process in motion and will provide you with guidance concerning probate and what your next steps should be.
What is Probate?
Simply put, probate means proving that a will is valid. In some cases, probate may not be necessary but generally speaking, it's something that has to happen before the distribution of assets can begin.
Securing the Estate
While no one wants to think about theft and fraud in the wake of a loss, the unfortunate reality is that bad things can and do happen to grieving families. For would-be fraudsters, a recent death can prove to be the perfect opportunity for identity theft. As an executor, one of your first priorities should be protecting the estate. Some funeral homes may provide services that help with tasks such as notifying credit bureaus and cancelling credit cards but it's important to get confirmation in order to avoid unpleasant surprises down the road.