Let’s start with basic definitions. A will is a legal document expressing a person’s wishes regarding how their property and assets will be distributed after passing. A will can also be used to designate legal guardians for minor children and funeral arrangements. Regardless of its specific contents, every will needs an executor, an individual tasked with fulfilling the deceased's wishes.
While it’s undoubtedly an honor to be entrusted with such a crucial and delicate task, it can also be a burden and a source of significant stress. Understanding the typical duties of the executor of a will can help you navigate the process. Additionally, you should consider working with an experienced estate administration lawyer to avoid setbacks.
Below, we list the most common responsibilities held by the executor of a will.
The first thing on an executor’s to-do list is to obtain multiple copies of the death certificate. You must obtain multiple copies because various government and financial institutions will require the death certificate. Gaining control of a deceased person’s property and assets, managing their debt, or paying their taxes will be impossible in the absence of this document.
The executor of a will is also responsible for notifying various institutions that the individual in question has passed away. The United States Postal Service, banks, the Social Security Administration, Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs, employers, etc., are a few examples of the types of institutions an executor must notify in the event of death.
Probate is the legal process of validating a will, which essentially attributes formal recognition to the deceased's wishes. It also establishes the executor of the will as the individual tasked with property and asset distribution. Probate laws vary from state to state. To determine your state’s requirements, consult an experienced estate administration lawyer.
The executor of a will is responsible for managing all financial aspects of the estate. The first step is to set up an estate bank account, where any incoming payments due to the deceased will be stored. These may include paychecks, tax refunds, stock dividends, and other investment payouts. The funds in this account will then be used to pay any outstanding debts to creditors, property taxes, funeral expenses, etc. It’s important to note that the executor of a will is also responsible for paying any ongoing expenses while the estate is being settled. This may include insurance premiums, mortgage payments, and even utility bills.
Keep in mind that in addition to paying outstanding debts, if you are the executor of a will you are also required by law to officially notify creditors of any ongoing probate proceedings.
Last but not least, the executor of a will must also file an income tax return, covering the period elapsed between the first day of the year and the time of death.
One of the most critical elements of a will is the distribution of property and assets. The executor of the will is tasked with contacting each beneficiary and notifying them of their inheritance. Although rare, in some cases, a will might not contain references to the division of property or any named beneficiaries. In these cases, the executor of the will must oversee the distribution of property and assets according to the ruling of the local probate court.
To navigate the probate process effectively and avoid any potential setbacks, you should seek the help of an estate administration lawyer.
If you’ve recently searched for an “estate administration lawyer near me” in Northern Virginia, you have likely seen our firm, McCarthy & Askers, PLC, among the top results. Over the years, we have built a solid reputation in this area by helping countless people like yourself meet their estate planning needs. Our attorneys hold advanced certifications in elder law and elder care and memberships in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. McCarthy & Akers PLC is the only Life Care Planning Law Firms Association (LCPLFA) member in the Shenandoah Valley. Your comfort is our priority, which is why we go one step further than most law firms by hiring licensed and certified elder care coordinators to assist with any needs our clients may have.
Contact us today at (540) 722-2181 or fill out our online form to take advantage of a free consultation. If you prefer to discuss your estate planning needs in person, our offices are conveniently located in Strasburg, Woodstock, Front Royal, Winchester, Manasses, Warrenton, and Culpeper.
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