When someone trusts you, they may come to rely on you for help. That trust could result in an individual naming you as the executor or administrator of their estate when they die. It is an honor to have someone trust you with that important work, but you will also have a substantial obligation to fulfill as a result of that trust.
The more familiar you are with the responsibilities of an executor or administrator, the more straightforward you will find the probate process and your obligations to the deceased.
Gathering and maintaining records is a major duty
One of the most important things that an executor does is handle all of the residual financial concerns someone leaves behind when they die. From repaying outstanding debts to filing the last year of income taxes, an administrator or executor will have to review and utilize financial records for the benefit of the estate.
Not only will you need to figure out what debts and assets someone has, but you will also need to carefully track your efforts to resolve those debts and disperse those assets among their family members and loved ones to prove you did what you should have done.
You must comply with the law first and the testator’s wishes
In most estates, the estate plan or last will will have specific instructions regarding the management of assets and other aspects of estate administration. Generally speaking, the role of the administrator or executor is primarily to enforce the wishes of the testator and ensure that their legacy meets their plan or expectations.
However, having the estate plan or last will reviewed by an attorney prior to the dispersal of any assets is important, as individuals may have included illegal or highly questionable clauses in their last will that could leave you or the estate itself open to a challenge in probate court.
You may have to serve as a mediator for family conflicts as well
In circumstances involving a last will or estate plan, conflicts among family members can easily arise. For example, if the deceased had three children who serve as their only heirs, they may have left the instructions to divide everything into thirds.
However, family members may want to retain specific assets or may feel like they should receive a larger portion of the estate due to services they provided or the relationship they had with the deceased. You may have to mediate conflicts between heirs and help find solutions that work for everyone while still upholding the wishes of the testator.