You should know that only the most trusted of friends or family members are asked to be personal representatives (executors) of an estate. The person chosen for this task must oversee the deceased's will and ensure that their wishes are carried out in an accurate and timely manner. If you are like most, you may find yourself dealing with this responsibility while still mourning the loss of your friend or loved one. If you have an idea of what to expect, it could be helpful. Read on for a quick primer on what will be expected of you as a personal representative.
Search and Find These Documents: As soon as possible, attempt to locate the following. Some of these documents will be needed right away to make burial and funeral plans, while others will be needed eventually.
- Life insurance policy
- Burial policy
- Pre-need plan - A note about this task: It is the responsibility of the personal representative to ensure that funds are available for the burial and funeral. In some cases, plans have already been put in place, sometimes called a pre-need plan. In other cases, life insurance policies or burial policies should be located and presented to the funeral home.
- The will
- Any trusts
- Contents of safes, safe deposit boxes or lock boxes
- Real estate deeds
- Vehicle titles
- Bank account information
- Investment and retirement account information
- Tax returns
Meet with the estate attorney to initiate probate: If there is a will, it must be probated. Probate is the legal process of dealing with the deceased's estate, meaning their property and debts. It ensures that bills, particularly tax bills, are paid and that the beneficiaries are alerted to bequests. Depending on the size of the estate, probate takes several months to be complete.
Take care of the estate: This means paying certain bills of the estate (your estate attorney will advise you on which ones to pay now and which to pay after probate is complete), making sure the real estate is appraised, inventorying the contents of the home and all property, and readying the home to be sold, if necessary.
Follow the deceased's wishes: Once probate is complete, you are free to allow the beneficiaries to take possession of their bequests. If your state allows for personal representatives to be paid for their duties, you will now be paid from the estate. Be sure to provide beneficiaries with copies of the will, the death certificate, and the final probate paperwork to help them take legal possession of real estate and other property.
Get more information about these duties from the estate attorney.