3 Tips to Help You Do Your Job as an Estate Executor

Being an estate executor can be challenging and stressful, especially if you're dealing with a large estate or there are many beneficiaries. Until the estate is successful distributed to beneficiaries, you are the sole representative of the deceased's wishes and are legally obligated to maintain and protect the estate.

1. Act in good faith

Because often executors are people trusted by the deceased, provided you act in good faith, you won't be liable in case of  mishaps like decrease in asset value. You will be liable, however, if the estate is mismanaged, such as selling off assets at lesser value to get quick cash or allowing assets to be tampered with before completion of the probate process. If you're not able or don't want the role, you may refuse. The court will appoint another executor in the event a contingent executor was not specified.

2. Get assistance

After the funeral is done, you will need professional help to navigate the different portions of the probate process to ensure it goes smoothly. For instance, you'll need a death certificate specifying cause of date to notify insurers and other stakeholders. Ask for the trust or will from the person that told you about your executor role. A copy of the will should be filed at the probate court for proceedings, unless the deceased had set up a living trust.

It is possible to distribute trust assets without going through the courts. Otherwise, an attorney can help with the probate process, particularly if you have complications such as beneficiaries contesting the will. Even without such complications, there are many aspects to administering and finally disbursing the estate, so consult whoever is needed. The money for this can be claimed back from the estate. You'll need to submit a final tax return and you can use a tax accountant to help. The appraiser will help with asset valuation for disposal or disbursement.

3. Know the assets

If the deceased had written a will, they most likely have a detailed list of their assets and liabilities and where to find the relevant documents. If you receive this (most commonly from the deceased's estate attorney), you have an easier job ahead. If there isn't a list, the estate attorney will probably know how to guide you. He/she can also help with notifying creditors. Estate disbursement is a serious process. Do not allow any asset, no matter how small, to be taken from the estate until probate has been completed and all the creditors have been paid (where applicable).

If the deceased's debt exceeds his estate, the courts will prioritize creditors. You'll need to figure out the deceased's income and expenditure as well. Begin with their chequebook, regular mail, email and mobile money providers. You can also use previous tax returns, contracts, financial statements and deeds for clues on their asset and liability profile.