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I’m an executor…Now What?

As an executor you must be able to act impartially on behalf of all beneficiaries. You must also have the presence of mind to take care of many tasks very soon after the decedent's parting.

It is crucial that as an executor you have the time needed to devote to settling the estate. The tasks involved can be very demanding and you may have to meet with different experts, including a lawyer, financial advisor and insurance agent.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to the following:

Arrange the funeral:
As the executor you must obtain the death certificate and make the funeral arrangements.

Locate the most current will:
After you find and review the will, you may needed to meet with a lawyer to apply for probate, which confirms your authority to act on behalf of the estate.

Inform Beneficiarieses:
As soon as possible, you must let beneficiaries know they were included in the will. As the process moves forward, the executor should keep everyone informed about the progress, as well as any delays, and when heirs might expect to receive their inheritance.

Notify organizations and business associates:
All the financial institutions and organizations the deceased dealt with must be informed of the death. This includes banks, credit card companies. investment companies, insurance companies, and landlords. It also includes club memberships, charities previously donated to, magazine subscriptions and service providers such as telephone, cable, etc. Any pre-authorized payments will have to be stopped. As executor, open a bank account for the estate so any credits made payable to the estate can be easily accounted for.

Claim benefit:
The executor must apply for life insurance benefits and pension plan death benefits, if applicable.

Compile a comprehensive list of estate assets:
One of the most time-consuming tasks an executor must complete is to create a list of all assets- every bank account, registered plan, investment, pension, property and other items in the estate. Then you must locate each asset, secure value and insure it, if applicable. As executor you will manage the assets in the estate until they are disbursed according to the responsibilities assigned to the executor in the will. The executor must keep detailed records of anything that is bought or sold on behalf of the estate, for the courts and beneficiaries.

Pay estate debts and expenses:
The executor is responsible for paying all debts an expenses owed by the estate, including funeral bills and taxes. Generally, the money to pay theses costs come from the estate. However, if an executor distributes all assets of an estate and then discovers an unpaid bill, he or she can be personally liable for the expense.

File the final tax return:
File outstanding tax returns from past years and a final return for the year of death. In addition, each year the estate retains any assets, an estate tax return must be filed.

Administer trusts set up in will:
If there are any assets in trust for a beneficiary – for example, until a child turns 18 years old – and the executor is appointed as trustee, the executor must manage the assets for as long as the trusts exists.

Distribute bequests:
the 4 most obvious task of an executor is to distribute the bequests. This includes personal items, such as family heirlooms, and financial investments such as property, stock and bonds. While smaller items may be disbursed right away, the remainder of the estate should generally remain in the executor's hands until the final tax return has been filed and a tax clearance certificate is issued. This ensures the executor will be able to pay any taxes due from the estate.

How is the executor compensated:
Fulfilling all of the responsibilities of an executor can be difficult and time consuming. In many cases, an estate will not be settled for many months or even years, during which time the executor could spend hundreds of hours working out the details, Legally, an executor is entitled to compensation from the estate, even though friends and family often forgo payment.

Settling an estate, even a simple one, involves plenty of loose ends and detail. For your own protection, you should keep a copy of all records for at least two years. Don't hesitate to seek the guidance of a professional if you need help or become overwhelmed.