Checklist for an Estate Will Executor

By Lee Carroll

Executorship over a deceased person's estate is often both a rewarding and demanding role. You are handed the authority and the obligation to manage her estate as she would if she were alive, and the family may depend on you for consolation and information. Some estates are small and may be settled in a short amount of time, but others require a tremendous amount of dedication and exemplary accounting and organization skills.

Prepare for Duties

If you are named in the will as executor, the probate judge should appoint you as long as you meet the state’s requirements -- which usually include being an adult of sound mind with no felony convictions. If an executor was not named in the will, explain to the deceased’s family that you would like the responsibility. If you are the closest relative, no one should oppose you. Locate the will and obtain the death certificate.

Petition the Court

Obtain the necessary document to apply for executorship at the probate court office. You may be allowed to file it, the will and the death certificate at the same time, which notifies the judge of your desire to be executor and opens the estate for probate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Notify Interested Parties

The judge will often wait until the initial hearing to appoint you as executor. However, you must notify all interested parties, such as family, beneficiaries and known creditors that you have applied for the position. Most courts require you to publish your intent in a local newspaper for a certain period of time. Before the initial hearing, it is wise to develop a bookkeeping and organization system to save time later.

Attend Initial Hearing

As soon as the initial hearing is scheduled, notify all interested parties in writing to allow them the opportunity to attend. Include a copy of the will. If you have not yet been appointed as executor, it should happen at this hearing. The judge will issue your Letters Testamentary, which give you executor authority to manage the estate.

Begin Inventory and Accounting

All assets and debts of the deceased should be inventoried and organized. If the estate is large, consider a labeling system. If the will assigns special gifts such as jewelry or personal items, separate and label them to help avoid confusion. Maintain a current filing system and ledger for all documents.

Pay Creditors, Taxes and Beneficiaries

Debts are paid before anything is distributed to heirs or beneficiaries. If there is not enough available cash to pay debts, the court may allow you to sell property. Gifts to beneficiaries should only sold for cash to pay debts if there is no other option. You may also be required to file income tax or death tax documents with the IRS. If your state allows it, distribute gifts and residuals to beneficiaries and heirs after debts and taxes are paid but before the final hearing.

Attend Final Hearing

Accounting and inventory records are presented to the judge to prove that debts are settled and taxes are paid. If there are no discrepancies, the judge will close the estate. In states in which asset distribution must wait until after the estate is closed, the judge will allow you to give property to beneficiaries and heirs and release you from your duties.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Probate Court Procedures for a Will
 

References

Resources

Related articles

How to Find Out If an Estate Has Been Settled

Estate settlement occurs when the court approves the final report from the estate's appointed representative, usually an executor or administrator. The estate settlement process involves payment of the deceased's debts, final tax return fillings and the transfer and sale of assets with property and sale monies going to the deceased's heirs or will beneficiaries. Estate proceedings are a matter of public record, so if you need to know whether an estate was settled, you can find out by viewing the estate's court records. Finding out whether an estate is settled is useful in various situations, especially if you're a family member or will beneficiary who didn't receive your share, or a creditor who never received payment.

How to Probate a Will in AL

After the initial grieving process following the death of a loved one, you may be left in charge of the disposition of the deceased’s property. Although some people die intestate -- without a will -- others prefer to determine the distribution of their assets through a last will and testament. In Alabama, a will generally must be probated in the county probate court within five years from the date of death to be considered legally binding.

California Executor Checklist

The executor is the person who manages the estate of the deceased, also known as the decedent, during the probate process. The executor is responsible for paying debts of the estate and distributing assets to the heirs. California law allows for the compensation of executors from the estate assets.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help. Wills & Trusts

Related articles

What Actions Must an Executor Take Upon a Death in Utah?

Settling the affairs of a deceased person, known as a decedent, may include only a few basic tasks for a small estate, ...

What Does It Mean if a Will Has Been Probated?

Wills are often thought of as legal documents, but they do not become so until after the testator, or person who ...

Who Gets Paid First Out of a Deceased's Estate?

Probate is the process of settling a decedent's estate under court supervision. State law may establish an informal ...

When to Notify the Executor of a Will

Called a personal representative in some states, the executor named in a will assumes responsibility for administering ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED