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Steps to Take When Appointed as an Estate Executor

by Phil Levin, Esq. on December 1st, 2020

In the real world, many people do not even know that they have been appointed as the executor of an estate until after a person dies and they read the decedent’s Last Will and Testament.

Being appointed as the executor for an estate is both an honor and a burden, but that burden can be made infinitely harder when the executor does not have the right information or guidance to know how to handle the estate. Here are some quick tips to help you out if you or a family member has been named the executor of an estate and you do not know where to begin:

Find a Competent Probate Attorney –

An experienced probate attorney is a great resource to help you carry out and discharge your duties and responsibilities as the executor of an estate. In many cases, you can work with the attorney who originally drafted the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, but there will be times when this is not possible, either because the attorney passed away, retired, or you have a conflict of interest. If this is the case, you should find an attorney who has experience dealing with your local probate court and can help you navigate the estate administration process.

Locate the Decedent’s Last Will and Testament –

The Last Will and Testament must be filed with the probate court to start the probate proceedings. Many times, the lawyer who originally drafted the document may have the original Last Will and Testament in their vault for safekeeping purposes. If not, the original Will may have been in a secure location, such as the decedent’s safety deposit box or in a fireproof storage box in the decedent’s residence. If the original Last Will and Testament of the decedent cannot be located, there are usually steps which probate courts allow to admit a copy of the decedent’s Will to probate through preparation of a petition to the court in order to allow the commencement of an estate administration.

Establish the Estate Bank Account –

Once the Last Will and Testament has been filed and accepted by the probate court, the executor appointed under the Will receives legal documents, including the Certification of Probate, that allows the executor to access bank and brokerage accounts, as well as establish a new estate bank account. The best practice is to close all of the decedent’s accounts held in the individual name of the decedent and transfer them all into the estate account, which gives the executor the ability to track the estate’s finances and pay any bills or debts.

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