So you’ve been named as personal representative, also known as the executor, of a loved one’s estate. You probably haven’t done one before, and the job may seem obscure and complicated. The legal team you choose will be there to help you with the process, but here are a few tips to get you started on the right path.
Always Be Organized
In any legal matter, records keep you safe and sane. The situation is no different as a personal representative. Marshalling assets, for example, is one of a personal representative’s primary jobs: knowing where every cent of the estate is and how to access it. Said assets can include real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, annuities, vehicles, patents, bags of gold hidden in the yard, and so much more. And unless you have a brain the size of an SUV, it will help you massively to keep records.
Keep spreadsheets of account numbers and files of ownership titles. Catch bills as they come, pay them off, and record them.
Talk to Your Legal Team
Communication is so important! The attorneys and paralegals working on your case are paid to help you throughout the process. The more you stay in touch with your legal team, the quicker you will catch problems. The quicker you catch problems, the faster and easier they will be resolved, the less time the heirs will have to wait for their inheritance, and the less you will have to worry.
Respond promptly to emails from your legal team. Feel free to check in on a weekly or biweekly basis for an update on your case. And be sure to fill them in on concerns or important information as they arise.
Maintain Civility With The Family
Losing a loved one is never easy, and the process of executing their wishes can create tension. Surprise debts, unequal distribution, and changing hands of assets can all elevate that tension. Tension can lead to will contests and other lawsuits that may bog down a probate for years, only exacerbating the conflicts.
Avoid strife and maintain civility among those involved. Complete the probate as efficiently as possible. And inform your legal team of any potential issues among heirs, so they can proceed accordingly.
Be Cognizant of Creditors
One of the most common mistakes as personal representative is distributing the estate before debts are paid. Creditors will have between 4 months and 2 years to submit a claim. If there is not enough left in the estate to satisfy these claims, the creditor may come after you instead!
Ask your legal team how long the creditor claim period is, and mark its end on your calendar. Remembering it will help you both stay safe from creditors, and distribute the estate as quickly as possible afterward.
Take it One Task at a Time
The role of a personal representative is a responsibility, not a gift, and often a daunting one. There are many tasks you will need to fulfill, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The best stratagem is to accomplish it one task at a time. Talk to your legal team about the probate process, and make a checklist. One by one, complete each entry on it, batting down problems as they arise. Don’t rush, but be steadily productive. Before you know it, you will have fulfilled your loved one’s wishes to a T.
A personal representative’s job can be arduous and thankless. But your lost loved one is relying on you to fulfill their wishes after they have passed. Keep these tips in mind, and remember that the legal team you hire is here to help you every step of the way.