If your Aunt Lucy named you as the executor of her estate, her sudden death may leave you feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility.
Even as you deal with your own grief, you must take care of details with which you are unfamiliar. Here are five tips to help you succeed as executor.
1. Take care of initial tasks.
You can make funeral and burial arrangements for your aunt. The funeral home will provide you with copies of the death certificate. Use these to notify the bank, the Social Security Administration and other entities about the death. File a copy of the will with the probate court.
2. Protect and distribute assets
One of your main responsibilities is to protect the assets of the estate. If your aunt had a living trust, you might avoid the probate process because the trust owns all the property. This means that you can distribute the assets to beneficiaries once debts are paid without the approval of the court.
3. Pay bills
A bank will help you establish an estate account through which you can pay any bills that are due. You must also file Aunt Lucy’s final tax return.
4. Proceed with caution
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, you must file an inventory of Aunt Lucy’s estate within four months of her death if probate is opened. You can expect your duties to include considerable paperwork, so remain organized and take your time winding up estate matters.
5. Request professional advice
Your aunt likely chose you as her executor not only for your business sense but also for your common sense. Know when to ask for help from professionals such as an accountant or an appraiser. An attorney can provide guidance and help you avoid legal missteps so that you can succeed as an executor.