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.
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.
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.