So You’ve Been Named Executor. What Now?

If you are ever asked by someone to serve as the executor of an estate, you should realize that accepting the position means you will have specific responsibilities when that person dies. Your primary duty as an executor will be to manage the estate through probate. While many of the concerns people have about probate and its complexities are overblown, you can get a head start on your responsibilities by taking the time to perform some basic preparations.

Where is the will?

One of the key duties executors have is to find the will and bring it before the probate court. It’s best if you know where the will is beforehand. Simply ask the will maker where he or she keeps the document, so you know where to look for it after the person dies. It isn’t necessary to know what provisions the will contains, but you should be able to locate it easily.

What is in the estate?

Another key duty executors have is to determine exactly what is in the estate. This includes everything from real estate to personal property, but it also includes names of stockbrokers, insurance agents, accountants, and descriptions of other important assets and liabilities. If the testator hasn’t already done so, ask him or her to create a personal instruction letter. Personal instruction letters are not legally binding, but they can help the executor perform the required duties because they contain specifics about the estate and what it contains.