If someone you love recently died, you may find yourself serving as the administrator or executor of the estate or perhaps as trustee. The job of handling someone else’s estate is a dubious honor. If someone names you to this critical role, that clearly means they trust your ability to handle the stresses involved. However, it also means you have to do a lot of work, often without much additional compensation beyond the inheritance you would have received anyway.
Handling an estate isn’t easy, but you can do it successfully if you are mindful. Attention to detail and ensuring that you comply with the specific wishes of the deceased are important. Make sure that you fully understand the obligations of the role before you begin the process of handling the estate.
Read the will, trust or estate plan closely and follow all requirements in it
A last will is more than a way to handle someone’s possessions after they die. It’s also a final legacy for the person who passed on. One of the best ways you can honor someone you loved who is now deceased is to ensure that you fulfill all the requests in their estate plan.
If you have difficulty understanding the documents, working with an attorney, including your own legal representation and potentially the lawyer who drafted the document, is a good decision.
Make sure you fulfill all financial obligations
One of the most rewarding parts of handling an estate involves distributing assets, both physical and financial, to the heirs and family members of the deceased. Before you can do this, however, you must first take care of any outstanding bills and debts.
Failing to handle financial obligations can cause issues for the estate. It can even result in creditors taking legal action. Protect yourself and the legacy of your loved one by handling bills and other debts as soon as possible. You may need copies of the death certificate to speak with creditors and other financial institutions on behalf of the estate.
Get receipts for everything, especially physical items
You need to be able to prove you’ve paid all outstanding debts and bills. Financial transactions, however, usually have their own paper trail. You should also consider how to record handling physical items, like family heirlooms, jewelry and art.
Receipts from individual heirs are a good solution. You can fill them out to show what, exactly, that person received. When they come to claim their items, they should sign for the receipt of those items. That way, there’s no question about who got what and whether you followed all the requests laid out in the estate plan or last will.
Pay attention to the details at every turn to fulfill your legal obligation as an executor. It can also protect you from claims from unhappy heirs and family members in the future and help keep the estate out of probate court.