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How to Be a Good Executor

In this guide, we break down what exactly an Executor is, what they must do, and how you can go about being a great one.

When you get asked to be the executor of someone’s estate, you are given the unique responsibility of managing the deceased person’s assets, ensuring that their final wishes are carried out and any obligations are taken care of. When it comes to an estate plan, the executor is often known as the executor of Will or executor of Estate, and they are responsible for ensuring the wishes stated within the applicable documents are met. Trust & Will, a leader in online estate planning, wants to help you be successful and take some of the stress of being an executor off your shoulders. 

What does an executor do?

An executor’s primary job is ensuring that all assets of the deceased are given to their new owners. Within the Will, the deceased will have stated clearly who they want to receive certain assets, such as property, money, cars, boats, jewelry, and more. It will be your job to ensure the assets are passed down to their rightful owners. You must also notify all beneficiaries of the assets that their loved one has passed if they do not already know.

Your responsibilities as the executor also include representing the estate in probate court. You will be tasked with making sure everything goes smoothly in court and that there is an easy transition of assets.

Executors must also rectify debt that is left behind from the deceased. It is common that the deceased may have unpaid taxes, mortgages, student debts, bills, and more. The executor must carry out the payments of all debt and taxes left behind. 

Finally, it is common for executor’s to be responsible for funeral and burial arrangements made by the deceased within the Will. For example, if they ask to be cremated or buried, or if they want their funeral to be held within a church, the executor must make sure the wishes are obliged. 

These are just a few of the possible responsibilities you may be tasked with as the executor. 

Tips for carrying out your executor responsibilities

Now that you know what your main responsibilities are, you will want to know tips on how to perform your responsibilities efficiently so that you can be a good executor and avoid any unnecessary mistakes that may complicate the process. 

1. Prepare in advance 

Once you have been named executor, you will want to start preparing for your position now so that once you must begin your responsibilities, the process will be easier for you. One of the first things you will want to do is ask questions about your responsibilities. Below is a list of questions you will want to consider asking. 

  • Where are all the important documents kept?

You will want to know where the Will, Trust, and Healthcare Directive papers are located so you can access them upon the death of the individual. It would be very stressful and complicated if the documents could not be located. 

  • Can we go over the papers together?

It can be important to go over documents like the Will with the person who is entrusting you to be their executor so that you can ask any clarifying questions you may have. This will ensure that there is not any confusion over what your responsibilities are and what the person’s wishes are.

  • Are there other important people I should meet?

It is common that people create a Will with an attorney, or there may be other trusted individuals who will be responsible for parts of the person's wishes, such as Trustees. It will be important to meet these people and go over everything together, as you may be working closely with them once the person passes away.

2. Create copies of all necessary documents 

As the executor, you will be responsible for a lot of important documentation, such as the Death Certificate, Will, and more. It can be a beneficial precaution to create multiple copies of these documents in case something was to get misplaced. This way, you will be prepared for any situation. 

3. Be honest and sympathetic with the family

You will have frequent contact with the family, as it is your responsibility to pass on all assets to the right individuals. This process can often be a lengthy one because assets must go through probate court. You should be upfront with the family on how long this process may take and should keep them thoroughly updated on how the process is going and at what stage you are at. This will be a difficult time for the family as well, and you will want to be sympathetic to this. 

4. Set up an estate account

As the executor, you will be the receiver of all finances that are owed to the now deceased. For example, this can include things like tax returns. You should open an etate account where you can keep this money until you pass it on to the loved ones. This account money is also what can be used to pay for debts and burial expenses. 

5. Manage property and estate 

While you are going through probate court for items like land and homes, these assets will remain in your care until they can be passed on to their rightful owners. As they will be in your care, it can be beneficial to take on the upkeep of the assets. A good executor will ensure the home stays in great shape before it is ready to be passed on. You may want to mow the lawn, water the plants, and ensure all appliances are in working condition.

Being an executor can be a great responsibility, but it can often feel like a challenging task. You will want to pick your executor wisely and ensure that you are laying out concise instructions for them. At Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement  options today!

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