If someone named you as the executor to their estate, sometimes called the "personal representative," then they have placed a great deal of trust and faith in you. Now that you are the executor for the estate, it's your responsibility to manage the assets responsibly and ensure that all debts are paid off, and to ensure that all creditors are paid, and most importantly, it's your responsibility to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries according to the decedent's wishes.
It's absolutely vital that you understand the magnitude of your fiduciary duty, and it's important that you act in good faith otherwise you could be found legally liable if you allow the assets to be tampered with before the probate process has concluded.
Since it's your responsibility to make the burial and funeral arrangements, you will need to obtain the death certificate; these expenses will be paid for out of the estate. It's important to note that you will more than likely need numerous copies of the death certificate so when the funeral home asks you how many you need, you want to take into account the insurance company, banks, the life insurance company, the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, the IRS and anyone else that may require a death certificate.
If the deceased was an elderly individual and receiving Social Security benefits, notify them right away. Failure to notify Social Security can become a real inconvenience especially when you have to pay them back.
Get your hands on the will or trust documents right away because these papers are critical for all further legal proceedings. If there was a will, then the Probate Court will need to validate the will and acknowledge that you are the executor of the estate. If there was a living trust, then hopefully you will be able to avoid
probate if the correct measures were taken.
Last but not least, once you have the will or trust in your hands, seek professional guidance from
P. Arnsen Blakely. With over 40 years experience in
estate planning, we can assist in all the legal aspects of administering either a will or a
living trust. If the estate is required to go into probate, then you can take comfort in knowing that the Probate Court looks favorably upon an attorney who knows how to file the right forms and follow the appropriate court procedures. In the end, having an attorney can save you a great deal of time and help you avoid having assets tied up for extended periods.