Top 5 Things to Remember If You’re the Executor
When a loved one dies, there isn’t a checklist of tasks to complete to expedite the grieving process. When you have been named the Executor (or “Personal Representative”) of the estate, you have an administrative process to navigate in addition to the emotional one. Thankfully, in that role, there are a finite number of actions that are involved, and plenty of places to turn for guidance:
1. Enlist Professional Assistance
Being Executor comes with a gamut of chores and responsibilities, but by far the most important one is the fiduciary responsibility you now bear to the estate. This means that you are responsible to take certain actions to protect and preserve the deceased’s assets and to distribute them in accordance with the Will and applicable law. Having an experienced professional assist you in the day-to-day can make the job manageable and go a long way toward relieving the stress that duty may cause you.
2. Make it Official
The first thing you’ll need in order to take any action at all is the death certificate. And because you’ll be asked to produce it repeatedly throughout the process, you should order many more copies than you think you’ll need. Always having one available can really streamline things in the long run. And, for starters, you’ll have to produce it in order to be sworn in as Executor when you probate the Will at the Register of Wills or Office of the Surrogate of the county in which your loved one was domiciled.
3. Cast a Wide Net
A lot of what an Executor does is find things: the Will in order to probate it, statements in order to know where the deceased’s assets were housed, policies in order to make claims, bills in order to pay them…the list goes on. This is where vigilance and organization pay off. Don’t rush the process or discount any little piece of information. You may need it later.
4. Let Folks Know
Communication is the key to maintaining good relationships with the other beneficiaries of the estate. Plus, it’s your job—generally, state law requires that notices be provided to beneficiaries in a specific format that lets them know how to get in touch with the Executor. The Executor is also responsible for alerting Social Security and Medicaid of a loved one’s passing. A professional can help with the particulars here.
5. Tax Returns?! Get Help
One of the last things an Executor must do is file transfer tax (Federal or State estate tax and/or State inheritance tax) returns with the appropriate taxing authorities. If your loved one held property in a state other than the one in which he or she lived (e.g., house at the shore,) this responsibility can get complicated pretty quickly. Don’t hesitate to turn to an attorney, accountant or trust company to be sure returns get filed completely and in a timely fashion, the first time around. It’s much easier than doing it twice or discovering a tax liability after assets have been distributed.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact your Relationship Team or email us at Top5@glenmede.com.
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