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What to expect when you become an executor

If you have accepted the job of executor for a deceased loved one or friend, you may feel overwhelmed when you learn about the size of the estate and what is involved.

The good news is that you can proceed in a step-by-step manner and rely on professional help whenever you need it. Here are five responsibilities common to all executors:

1. Locate the will

The person who notifies you of the death and identifies you as executor can probably point you to the location of the will. A copy must be filed with the probate court within the applicable timeframe. Once you have the will in hand, you will know the size of the estate and have a better idea of the complexity of your duties.

2. Distribute death certificate copies

You will need several copies of the death certificate. As executor, it is your job to make funeral and burial arrangements for the decedent, the costs of which you will pay out of estate funds. You will need to provide copies of the death certificate to the Social Security Administration, banks, life insurance companies and others.

3. Protect the assets

As executor, you will focus on protecting the assets of the estate, and you may have to dig around to locate them all. Common assets are bank and investment accounts, real property and valuable collections.

4. Make the necessary payments

You will be responsible for paying final bills and taxes for the decedent. First, you must make sure that the assets of the estate are sufficient to cover such payments. If not, the probate judge will prioritize creditors.

5. Obtain advice

Obtaining advice from tax professionals and appraisers will be very helpful, but you will also need the assistance of an attorney who can guide you through the legalities associated with your job as executor. As you begin carrying out the last wishes of the decedent, a checklist will keep you on track so that you proceed in an orderly fashion.

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