Mar 2015

You’ve Been Named an Executor: Now What?

What is an executor in regards to estate planning?

Losing a close friend or loved one can be a time of grief and emotional upheaval. During this time of mourning, however, there are many tasks that must be addressed, including how to take care of the decedent’s estate. Much of this will be determined by the deceased one’s estate planning documents.

If you have been named as an executor – also called a personal representative – within your deceased loved one’s estate planning documents, you probably have a lot of questions. Do you have to accept? What should you do next? Although each estate is different, they all share several steps that require an executor to act. The following are the first steps you should take as soon as you discover you have been named an executor.

Decide Whether You Accept

The law does not require you to accept the appointment outlined in the estate planning documents. You can decline for any number of reasons, including family obligations, work commitments, or simply because you don’t wish to serve. If you decline, however, the court will appoint another person to act as executor.

Hire an Estate Planning and Probate Attorney

If you choose to serve as executor, you have a fiduciary obligation to make sure the estate is handled properly. The probate process can be quite complex. This is not a time for do-it-yourself forms. Mistakes can cost the estate, which means less money for the decedent’s beneficiaries. Hire an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure things are done right.

Locate and Secure the Decedent’s Assets

With your estate planning attorney’s help, you must locate the decedent’s assets and make sure they are secure. Assets can range from bank accounts and real estate, to vacation properties and retirement accounts.

Gather the Decedent’s Estate Planning Documents

Review the will and other estate planning documents, which can include trusts, beneficiary designation forms, and letters of instruction. Estates can vary widely in terms of which documents the decedent included in his or her estate plan.

Begin the Probate Process

Although not every estate needs to go through the probate process, many do. Your estate planning lawyer can help you prepare the necessary forms and assemble all required documents.

Springfield, Missouri Estate Planning Law Firm

If you have been named an executor, we can help. At the Law Offices of Randy L. Smith, LLC, we help personal representatives navigate the probate process. Call today at (417) 841-2775 to speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer about your case.

This website has been prepared by The Law Office of Randy L. Smith, LLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.