What executors need to do following the testator’s death

This article looks at three things executors need to do in the weeks following the testator’s passing.

Executors of an estate are tasked with a stressful and often unrewarding job. The executor is responsible for distributing the estate and ensuring that all debts and taxes owed by the estate are paid. While that may sound straightforward, disputes related to how an executor is administering an estate often lead to litigation. Multiple parties may have an interest in the estate and those interests may clash not just with each other but with the executor's responsibilities. Below is a look at some of the things an executor needs to do immediately following the death of the testator to minimize the chance of disputes arising.

Secure the assets

A lot of heirs think they have an immediate right to take for themselves any object or heirloom that was promised to them by the testator. But, as MarketWatch reports, there is a process that must be followed when distributing an estate and heirs need to wait their turn. That's why executors should gather all keys to the testator's home and even consider changing the locks. That will help prevent heirs from taking it upon themselves to enter the home and take what they believe to be theirs.

Maintain the property

Executors are also responsible for maintaining the property until it is sold or distributed. That means using the estate funds to pay the mortgage, utilities, and maintenance bills. However, as CNBC points out, it is important that executors be careful about which bills they prioritize. Some creditors take precedence over others and simply trying to pay all outstanding debts at once could deplete the estate of funds that may be needed to pay other large bills in the future (like a large tax bill).

Paperwork and probate

Another part of an executor's job is completing all the necessary paperwork. That means filing a copy of the will with the probate court and getting a death certificate. The death certificate will then be needed to notify various parties, such as the banks, credit card companies, and government agencies, of the testator's death. The executor may also need to place an advertisement in the local newspaper to notify creditors that the testator has passed away and provide details for how to make a claim. It will also be necessary to get assets appraised, such as vehicles, collectibles, and real estate.

Help with estate administration

Many of the duties that executors are expected to perform will be entirely new to them, which is why it is so easy for an executor to make a mistake that could lead to disputes or litigation. Anybody who has been named as an executor should talk to an estate planning and administration attorney immediately. An experienced attorney will help executors handle their duties properly and ensure that the estate is administered in accordance with the law and the testator's final wishes.