If you recently lost a family member or close loved one, you are undoubtedly going through a period of grieving and heightened emotions. If you also learned that you were named as the Executor of the estate, you may feel a tremendous amount of pressure along with confusion if you have never served as an Executor. The best thing you can do for yourself at this point is to consult with an experienced probate lawyer before you do anything else. To help you in your role as Executor, however, a probate lawyer offers tips for the Executor.
Do Not Go It Alone
Unless the estate is small enough to qualify for an alternative to formal probate, do not make the common mistake of trying to handle the probate process by yourself. Probate can involve many complex legal and financial issues. If you are not well versed in the law and/or the world of finance, you could make a costly mistake. To avoid making costly mistakes, most Executors retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney. In addition, you may find that you need the services of a certified public accountant (CPA), a licensed real estate agent, and/or a licensed appraiser. Each of these professionals will make your job as Executor much easier and their fees will be paid for by the estate. Do not make the mistake of trying to handle the probate process alone.
Make Sure You Understand Your Duties and Responsibilities
If you have never served as an Executor before, how would you know what your duties and responsibilities are? Knowing what they are, however, is crucial to ensuring that you do not make a mistake that costs the estate, or even you personally, money. Fortunately, there are several resources that can help you. Along with consulting with an experienced probate attorney in your area, you might also try court websites in your jurisdiction. Many courts provide basic resources for Executors during the probate process that may be of assistance to you. Your state Bar association might also have a pamphlet or additional information that may help you.
Organization Is Key
Because it is difficult to go back and correct mistakes made during the probate of an estate, it is always best to organize the estate before you begin the probate process. Spend as much time as necessary identifying estate property, for example. Make lists of all estate assets, their location, and approximate value. Make a similar list for all known debts of the estate. If the estate is likely to owe federal gift and estate taxes, it is best to consult with a C.P.A. early on in the probate process so you know what impact those taxes will have on the estate. It is also a good idea to determine, as early as possible, whether the estate has sufficient liquid assets to pay estate debts. If the estate lacks liquidity, you will have to sell estate assets to provide the necessary liquidity. Knowing ahead of time that you will need to sell assets gives you time to decide which assets to sell and arrange for a sale that will maximize profits.
Err on the Side of Caution
Keep in mind that the estate you are probating represents a lifetime of hard work for the decedent. It may also include sentimental family heirlooms that are being passed down to the next generation. In short, what may seem like an obligation to you, means much more to the beneficiaries. Obviously, the decedent had a considerable amount of faith and trust in you because he/she appointed you to be the Executor of his/her estate. Given all of that, always err on the side of caution when fulfilling your role as Executor. If you are unsure of how to proceed at some juncture, consult with a professional. If you are hesitant about distributing an asset, take your time and make sure that distributing the asset is the right thing to do. If you think the estate might lack, start considering the sale of assets ahead of time. Keep in mind that someday, someone will be acting as your Executor. Ask yourself if the manner in which you are handling your role as Executor is how you would want someone to handle your estate.
Contact Probate Lawyers
For additional information, please join us for one of our upcoming FREE seminars. If you have additional question or concerns regarding tips for the Executor, contact the experienced probate lawyers at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.