If a loved one died and named you as the executor of his or her estate, you may feel unsure about where to start. While you are likely familiar with this person’s wishes, there is much more to this role.
As executor, you are responsible for completing all the necessary steps to administer a probate estate. These steps may include completing forms, communicating with heirs, securing assets and handling debts. Make your job easier by avoiding these common mistakes.
1. Not notifying creditors correctly
You must notify all known creditors that the deceased person has died. Not all creditors send regular written statements. It may be difficult to compile a complete list of creditors and contact information. Many executors solve this problem by giving notice by publication. To be valid, the publication and notice must meet certain criteria and must be timely.
2. Paying the wrong bills first
Do not make the mistake of paying off urgent-seeming or high-interest debts, such as credit cards, first. Probate law divides debts into different classes with different priorities. Some classes — taxes, for example — take priority over debts such as credit cards or medical bills. If the estate runs out of money, you could be on the hook for unpaid priority debts.
3. Failing to keep detailed records
Grieving a loved one is stressful. Do not add to this stress by attempting to remember every transaction. It is critical that you keep accurate records. Be sure to properly document or itemize each activity. Consider hiring an accountant or bookkeeper if necessary.
Do not hesitate to seek advice if you are uncomfortable or unsure. Educating yourself on probate procedures is key to proper estate administration.