David William Jordan

Attorney & Counselor at Law

Do I Want to Be The Executor of a Family Member's Estate?


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A close family member dies and you find out that they appointed someone else as executor of their estate in their Last Will & Testament. You are hurt because you think they did not trust you. But is that really how they felt? Below is a brief description of the duties and responsibilities of an executor of an estate. Read through this description of some of the duties of an executor and decide for yourself if your beloved family member didn't do you a favor.

You alone as the executor of the estate are in control of all of the decedent's assets and are the only one authorized to collect the assets and transfer them when necessary. So one of the first things you should do is to collect and secure of all the decedent's assets. If they owned a house and no one is living there now, make sure the house and its contents are secured. It may be beneficial to contact the police of that town to let them know that the residence is empty so they could keep an eye on it. Also remember too, if it is winter time, you will need to maintain heat and electricity so that no damage is done to the residence due to the cold weather. If they rented an apartment, contact the landlord and let them know that their resident has died and determine if you may keep the resident's belongings there for a period of time and if not, when the belongings need to be removed. If the decedent owned a car, be sure to secure it. Before moving it, make sure the registration is valid and it is still insured.

You should already have a copy of the Last Will & Testament. Immediately after the individual dies, you need to find the original Last Will & Testament and file it with the Probate Court of the county in which the individual lived along with a request to be appointed executor of the estate by the Court.

Once the Court has approved your appointment as executor of the estate, you should immediately:

  • Cancel all credit cards and request a final bill.

  • Fill out the appropriate forms at the post office so that you or whoever is going to handle the financial books of the estate will now receive the mail.

  • Confirm with any insurance companies that all insurance policies regarding the decedent's assets (car, house, apartment) are still in effect, are adequate and whether any payments are due. Cancel any unnecessary insurance policies and maintain all the necessary insurance policies.

  • Close all of the decedent's bank accounts and open a new, interest bearing checking account for the estate and obtain a federal tax identification number for the estate.

  • If the decedent owned any stocks, bonds, notes and/or Certificates of Deposit (CD), keep these in a secure place, for instance by placing them in a safety deposit box at a bank.

  • Review the decedent's records. You may find other assets or debts you never knew about that will need to be addressed, such as vacation deposits, partial payments for future purchases, personal loans made by the decedent, deeds that were never recorded.

  • Determine if the decedent owned any life insurance policies. If they did, be sure to request Form 712 when any claims are submitted to the insurance company. Form 712 will be needed if a federal estate tax return needs to be filed.

Once you have completed these tasks, your duties have just begun. Because an accounting must be submitted to the court as to the transactions of the estate, it would be wise to be sure of the following things while maintaining the books of the estate:

  • Always keep the estate checkbook balance current. Immediately record any deposits made and checks written.

  • Reconcile the estate checkbook each month upon receipt of the bank statement.

  • Keep detailed records of all deposits made and expenses paid. Pay all of the expenses incurred from the estate's checking account. If you make any payments from your own bank account, as soon as possible thereafter, reimburse yourself in the exact amount with a check from the estate.

  • Keep copies of all receipts regarding bills paid, all of the monthly bank statements regarding the checking account and all of the canceled checks.

  • Keep detailed records of any assets you may sell, being sure to keep a copy of the bill of sale which should detail the asset sold, the purchase price, the date of the sale and any commission that was paid. If you make any purchases or investments for the estate, be sure to receive a bill of sale with the same details or keep a record of those details.

  • As there are special probate or tax features that may be associated with buying or selling real estate or securities for the estate or distributing assets to any beneficiary within the first six (6) months after you have been appointed, you may want to consult with an attorney.

You will also be required to file the decedent's final personal tax return. Taxes may also be due to the State of New Hampshire and the federal government is the assets of the estate are large enough.

In addition, there is documentation that the court requires you to submit after certain time periods have elapsed. Make sure you do not miss these deadlines. As there are many duties and deadlines to meet, an executor must be thorough, organized and not procrastinate.

One last final note, never, ever, ever borrow money from the Estate.

So what do you think? Could you faithfully carry out the duties of an Executor?

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