Being An Executor: The Basics
If you’ve been appointed executor, or believe you will be, there are some steps that you should take. This list will be a helpful guide.
What Is An Executor?
The executor is named in a Last Will and Testament to administer the estate. This means the executor will identify all assets of the deceased, all expenses and debts of the deceased, and all beneficiaries of the deceased. Then, the executor will determine which debts and expenses should be paid and which should not be paid. (It’s unlikely that debts and expenses of the deceased will not be paid, unless there are insufficient assets to pay them). The executor will pay the expenses and debts, then distribute the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries. Finally, the executor will close the estate.
Serving As Executor Is Manageable and You Can Do It.
With help from an estate administration (probate) attorney, serving as an executor will not be too difficult or too challenging for you. Our estate administration (probate) team will work with you from opening the estate to closing. The process will be coordinated step-by-step so that you know what to do and when to do it. That way, you can see where you are in the process and will finish sooner and with less trouble along the way. If you are appointed executor or think you may become executor, contact us to help. The list below will be helpful as we work together.
Steps an Executor Should Take.
Take time. The executor should give ample time for friends and family to grieve. And the executor should give themselves time to grieve as well. Rarely will circumstances require an estate to be opened within a few days after death. So, give those affected by the death some time.
Contact the right attorney. The executor’s first order of business is to contact an attorney who focuses their work on estate planning and estate administration (probate). This will make the workload and challenges that executors face much more manageable. Let the attorney guide you through the estate administration process. The process will be easier and less time consuming for you and the beneficiaries.
Find the Will. Next, locate the deceased’s original Last Will & Testament and take it to the attorney who will assist you. Do your best to identify all assets (property) the deceased owned. Include any proof of ownership you are able to find. Provide all of this information to the attorney.
Learn about the deceased’s affairs. Gather contact information for people and organizations that need to know of the death. This list probably includes the Social Security Administration, the deceased’s health insurance company, life insurance company, banks and other financial institutions, employer, accountant, family members, and beneficiaries. Your attorney can help identify who should be contacted, what order to contact them, and how best to contact them. Don’t feel like you must do it all. We are here to help.
Get a tax ID (EIN) for the estate. The estate may need a unique Tax ID (EIN) number. A tax ID number is like a social security number for estates, trusts, and businesses. For example, it there will be an estate bank account or any account-based asset as part of the estate, such as an investment account, the estate will need a tax ID number. Your attorney or the deceased’s CPA will get the Tax ID (EIN) for the estate.
Don’t Delay. Stay proactive in your efforts to locate assets, pay expenses, and distribute the assets to beneficiaries. Also, be diligent in communicating with the estate attorney about your efforts so that you can get the best instruction.
Keep the attorney well informed. This means you should provide copies of bank statements you receive for the estate accounts, provide copies of documentation related to estate debts and expenses, and rely on the attorney to help you move the estate toward completion and closing. Delay in providing information to the estate attorney or simply not cooperating with efforts aimed at moving the estate toward closing will simply add to the cost of the estate administration and make it frustrating for everyone.
Evaluate tax consequences. As executor, you may need to coordinate with an experienced CPA to have the final income tax return prepared. Also, there may be an estate income tax return to be prepared, but that will be rare. Most estates don’t require an estate income tax return. Nevertheless, executors should check into whether a tax return needs to be filed rather than simply assuming one doesn’t need to be filed.
We Can Help.
Our estate administration (probate) team works with executors in a coordinated step-by-step process so that the executor knows what to do and when to do it. That way, the executor can see where they are in the process and finish the estate administration sooner and with less trouble along the way. Our team loves to work alongside executors, to take the mystery and stress out of estate administration, and to help executors complete the estate more quickly and less expensively than they would elsewhere.