Acting as the executor to an estate is an important duty with many responsibilities. While it may seem overwhelming and confusing at first, there are some very simple and basic first steps executors need to take that can help acclimate them to the process and help ensure that the deceased’s final wishes are carried out and all beneficiaries receive all the portions of the estate that they are due.
Most people generally advise their loved ones of their final wishes as it pertains to funeral arrangements. If this is the case, it may also be so that the deceased or his or her family has also made arrangements to pay for the funeral. If not, it will be up to the deceased’s surviving family members to make such arrangements, something the executor will not be expected to complete. However, it will be necessary for the executor of the estate to keep a financial record of all the burial costs paid out of the deceased’s estate as they may be deducted from any estate taxes.
Next, the executor will need to locate the deceased’s last will and testament and filed with the Surrogate Court in the county where the deceased resided or intended to reside if he or she lived out her final days outside of the county. Sometimes, the will may already be registered with the appropriate Surrogate Court, making this step easier.
If the last will and testament has not been filed with the court or the original certified copy cannot be located, it may be necessary to contact the attorney who helped draft the document to see if he or she has the paperwork. In the event the original cannot be located at all, a trust and estate attorney may be necessary to produce a satisfactory copy with an explanation as to why the original copy cannot be located.
The executor of the estate will need to read the will carefully and begin the process of contacting all the named beneficiaries of the estate to inform them of their claims. Beneficiaries will need to be served by process informing them that the estate has been entered into probate and that proceedings will begin on the date given by the court. While probate can take as little as 30 to 60-days to complete, the process can become much longer and be more complicated if executors do not follow these other other basic steps to pass the estate through probate.