Tips for an Executor of a Will

By A.L. Kennedy

As the executor of a will, you are responsible for carrying out the instructions left in the will, according to FindLaw. Your duties include paying the last debts of the estate, distributing assets to the beneficiaries and if necessary defending the legality of the will in court, according to the American Bar Association. Following a few tips for an executor of a will can help make your work easier.

Copy the Will

To open the probate estate and do your work as an executor, you will need to file the will with the probate court, according to FindLaw. Before you do so, however, it is wise to make a photocopy of the will for your personal use, since the will contains the instructions you must follow when handling the estate. Make sure your photocopy is clearly marked as a copy so that no one confuses it with the original.

Order Extra Death Certificates

The family of a deceased person and the executor of his estate receive a few copies of the death certificate as a matter of course in most states, according to FindLaw. However, since you will be required to furnish a copy of the death certificate to a wide range of places, including government offices, banks and businesses, it is wise to plan ahead and order seven to 10 extra copies, according to the American Bar Association.

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Find and Inventory Assets

Before you begin paying bills and distributing property to beneficiaries, you need to know what assets the estate has and what forms. Gather together the deceased person's bank statements, bills, insurance policies, investment paperwork and other items of value, including valuable personal property, and make a written inventory so that you know what needs to be paid and what is available to pay it, recommends FindLaw. In some states, you will be required to file this inventory with the court and/or make copies available to the beneficiaries named in the will.

Prepare Taxes

One of your duties as executor is to pay the final tax bills on the estate and any property contained in it, such as real estate. Make the tax work easier by obtaining copies of the estate's most recent tax returns and keeping track of payments made for medical bills and other deductible expenses. You may also wish to hire an accountant to advise you, especially if the estate contains a large amount of assets or is facing a heavy tax burden. In most states, you may be able to pay this accountant from the estate's assets, according to the American Bar Association.

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Can You Probate a Will Yourself?

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Can an Executor of an Estate Spend Any Money From the Estate?

Executors are allowed to spend estate money as they guide the estate through probate – they just can't spend it on themselves. Probate can be an expensive process, and your executor does not have to pay the costs herself. But if she does occasionally use her own money on behalf of the estate, she's entitled to reimbursement. But it's best to check with an attorney first to make sure she's taking money in the proper way.

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Will?

More than half of American adults have no will, notes the American Bar Association. This is due in part to the general perception that will preparation is complicated and expensive. While lawyer time adds up fast, people with simple estates can usually prepare their own wills at very little cost -- and since a will lets you name your heirs and the guardian of your minor children, the costs of not having a will can be substantially greater.

Online Will Preparation

A will is a legal document you can use to spell out how your property will be disposed of after your death. In your will, you can also appoint a guardian for your children and an executor for your estate. If you die without leaving a will, state laws will determine how your assets are distributed. You can create a will online in several ways.

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