a photo of a last will and testament

A loved one dies and you’re the executor of their will. Now what? 

Unlike the scenes laid out in movies, rarely is everyone gathered at the attorney’s office at once for a reading of the will, complete with gasps and tears at surprise announcements. It makes for great drama on the screen, but as you can imagine, real life is rarely that… interesting.

Hopefully the person who named you in the will told you they were doing so. Some people are caught off guard. Let’s assume you knew you were being asked to be an executor.  

What does that even mean? 

As executor, you are responsible for settling all of the debts of the departed, distributing items per their wishes and dividing the remaining material wealth amongst named beneficiaries. 

Step one is determining if the will needs to be probated and then filing the will in the appropriate local probate court. While there is not a time limit on when you must do this, the longer you hold off, the greater the chance additional problems will arise and thus unnecessarily complicate the estate’s administration. This can get tricky and you should definitely have an attorney help you navigate this. 

You’re also responsible for finding assets owned by the departed and safekeeping them. If other people have property, you’ll need to collect it… one way or another. Yes, this is also another step where it’s important to have an attorney at your side.

Further, you will need to contact any places where the departed had bank accounts, credit card accounts, and various insurance policies. You will also need to contact pension plans, the Social Security Administration, and any other government or private organization that paid them benefits. Then you will need to contact anyone in debt to the departed and collect on those debts. You’ll also need to pay any taxes the estate owes to be able to fully settle the estate.

After distributing property and/or selling off anything the beneficiaries do not want, the proceeds must be distributed accordingly and only then can the estate be closed. 

Easy-peasy, right? You can probably tell we’ve barely scratched the surface of what serving as executor of the will of a loved one can entail. If you’ve recently learned you’ve been named as executor, or want to plan for your future duties, preparing now can help make the entire process go much more smoothly. Call our office at 724-216-5180 or email us at john@jacochranlaw.com to get started. 

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