If you’ve been chosen to be the executor of a friend or loved one’s will, it’s most likely because you are a very special (and responsible) person to the deceased. If you have been selected to serve as an executor, here are the tasks you will be required to
- File the Will and Probate – The decedent’s will must be filed in the local probate court and ask the court to appoint you as executor. Then you’ll need to send notice of the appointment to all beneficiaries. Probate will depend on the size of the estate and nature of its assets. Depending on those variables, probate may be streamlined.
- Obtain an attorney – in most cases, it is best to hire an estate attorney to help administer the will, including such as reviewing documents, answering questions, and filing any required forms.
- Locate and manage assets - You will need to put together an inventory of the estate’s assets. Each must be valued at its fair market value on the date of death.
- Handle details – You’ll need to remember to attend to the day-to-day decedent’s details. This can include terminating leases and notifying banks, government agencies and creditors of the person’s death.
- Apply for an EIN – You must apply for an employer identification number from the IRS. Complete Form SS-4 to do this. You can call 1-800-829-4933 to secure the number or obtain it online at www.irs.gov. You’ll need this number to file estate income tax returns and open a bank account.
- Establish a bank account – It’s best to have a bank account for the estate so that you can document income or payment of debts and expenses that occur after death.
- Pay expenses and taxes – You will need to stay on top of continuing expenses, income taxes, and file an income tax return for the year of death. The estate becomes a taxpayer upon death. Income on the estate assets accruing after death will be reported on fiduciary income tax returns, which will be filed for the decedent’s estate. Also, there may be estate or inheritance taxes to be paid.
- Distribute assets – You will be responsible for distributing property to the individuals or organizations named in the will.
- Close the estate – Finally, after all of these duties have been completed, you must close the estate. This entails filing final tax returns, paying any remaining bills, distributing residual funds to beneficiaries and closing bank accounts.
As an executor you can, and should, obtain professional guidance to get you through the process. An experienced attorney or financial professional will answer your questions and remind you of all the necessary duties.