Being an executor of an estate is not an easy task, especially when it is for the first time. When you are named as an executor and the person has died, knowing what to do and how to prioritize the tasks can be challenging. In the best case scenario, the person has had a chance to speak with you at length about their wishes and shared information with you. That does not always happen. Even if you have had that conversation, you may still be a little anxious about taking on the role of executor.
When you have been named an executor and the person passes away, the task may seem overwhelming. But there are certain things that need to be done first. In "Five Things an Executor Should Do Right Away,"the first and most time sensitive tasks are outlined.
Where do you begin?
Every situation is different, but these five suggestions will help the executor get going in his or her new role.
1 - Locate the Will and read it as soon as you can. See if it includes any funeral wishes, such as whether the person wants to be cremated, where they wish to be buried or interred, and if he or she would prefer donations to be made to a specific charity instead of flowers. These items may all be in the will. Since you will need to act quickly and make decisions about the remains after death, you will want to know exactly what the will says about these arrangements.
2 - See if they have any Funeral or Burial Plans. Funeral homes will typically plan a funeral with someone and keep those wishes until the person dies, even if he or she didn't prepay. The executor needs to ensure that those wishes are followed. When a funeral was paid for in advance, the article advises to make sure estate money isn't used to pay for it again. If the will doesn't speak to this issue, see if the family knows about any pre-arrangements. Also, talk to the deceased's estate attorney to see if he or she is aware of any plans or wishes.
3 - Secure the Deceased's Home and Property. It's very important to arrange for someone to stay at the home during this time and/or install a security system. Unfortunately, when someone passes away, the funeral arrangements are typically accessible to all. People will know that the deceased's home will be empty during visitation and funeral hours, if not at other times, especially if the person lived alone. Also, you need to be aware of any home maintenance issues and have them repaired.
4 - Talk to the Beneficiaries and the Deceased's Family. The article suggests that as you manage and close an estate, you may be in close contact with the family and beneficiaries. It helps to map out a basic plan of action with them. This will give an idea about expectations on both sides and if they'll be helpful in the process. It's a way to connect with them and show that are going to be honest and transparent in your actions.
5 - Spend Some Time Grieving. Finally, it's important to prioritize and remember to take time to grieve. Remember to have patience, too.
As a new executor, the article says you might be stressed out and overwhelmed about how to proceed. There's a ton of stuff to do - it is not an easy job.
You may wish to consider calling on the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney to guide you through the process.