When an individual creates a will, he or she names a personal representative, or executor, who will be responsible for handling affairs of the estate after death.
In addition to locating the will and notifying heirs, the executor helps to move certain assets of the deceased’ through the probate process before distributing them to beneficiaries.
While many choose a family member or trusted friend as executor, it is important to know that this role may take a considerable amount of time, work and organizational skill.
1. Inventorying assets
One of a personal representative’s first tasks is filing a complete estate inventory with the Register of Wills. In addition to real estate and personal items, this inventory may include financial assets like investment, savings or retirement accounts. An executor may need to seek appropriate appraisals if the value of an asset is unknown.
2. Paying estate debts and taxes
The personal representative may also be responsible for identifying and contacting estate creditors as well as paying final expenses. In addition to fulfilling outstanding debts, including final medical and funeral bills, an executor may need to file state and federal tax returns for the estate.
3. Distributing estate assets
While a personal representative may contact heirs to a will soon after taking on the role, he or she may not distribute estate assets until those assets have passed through probate, including paying final debts to the estate.
Estate representatives should know that taking on the role of an executor may also mean taking on personal and financial liability for mistakes or oversights during the probate process. Speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney may help to avoid potential pitfalls while ensuring a smooth transition of assets.