McClellan Legal LLC Estate Planning & Tax Assessment Blog

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Five Tips Every Executor Must Know

Probate is an administrative legal process that takes place once someone passes.  The executor has an important role of juggling this process, as he or she is responsible for protecting the decedent’s assets, obtaining the death certificate, filing probate forms, and more.  It’s the executor’s job to ensure the process is done properly and the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.

The executor’s job usually spans over the course of year and could take longer in some circumstances.  Executors should be mindful that many administrative tasks include deadlines.  It is important to select an executor who can manage these tasks while keeping the beneficiaries updated.  Here are five tips to help an executor manage this role: 

1.      Executor Should Know Basic Info Before Death 

A major reason for estate planning is to reduce the administrative burden on the person administering your estate.  If you do not communicate basic estate planning information with your executor, then you are not making the executor’s job easier.  Therefore, you should talk to the person that you select as your executor while in the estate planning process. 

If you are appointed an executor, make sure to ask a few important questions when accepting the job, including: Where are the original estate planning documents?  Where can I find a list of your assets/accounts?  Ideally, the decedent will store a copy of the estate planning documents, funeral information, and financial records in a well-organized estate planning binder to help the executor quickly find what he or she needs.  

2.      Create an Asset Inventory for the Executor 

As mentioned above, it’s very helpful to the executor if you create and update a list of your assets and their locations. You may own a second home, multiple vehicles, an extensive stock portfolio, and so on. Your executor will later have to track your bills and pay your taxes. The executor should open up a bank account when starting probate in order to pay final bills, taxes, and debts.  Again, you may want to keep this information organized in a binder to save your executor time.  If you have an updated inventory of your assets, then your executor will not have to track down all of your assets. 

3.      Executor Should Maintain a Tasks & Deadline List 

The first two tips can be achieved with the help of the decedent before death.  The remaining tips are directed to the executor during the probate process.  An executor has many tasks, some of which are time sensitive.  Executors are encouraged to maintain a list of tasks and their deadlines.  An experienced estate attorney is a great resource for helping form the task and deadline list.  The executor should make a master schedule of all due dates and should constantly monitor and update the schedule as tasks are completed.   

4.      Executor Should Maintain Contact with Beneficiaries 

Maintaining good communication with the beneficiaries during the probate process is key to a smooth administration.  Uninformed beneficiaries will often become upset and that may lead to headaches for the executor.  The beneficiaries’ concerns during the probate process may be mitigated by good communication by the executor.  

5.   Executors Can/Should Seek Professional Probate Assistance 

Most executors have no prior experience administering an estate and often become frustrated by the administrative process.  Executors should understand that it is normal for them to seek assistance from estate professionals (e.g., estate attorney, CPAs, etc.) to understand the probate process tasks, schedules, and potential issues. Seeking professional assistance will ensure that the estate administration goes smoothly.  

If you have any questions regarding estate planning or administration, please call our office at 610-444-5552 to schedule a meeting.

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