Executors play a big role in probate proceedings.
Executing a last will is no small task.
As an executor, you are responsible for probating the last will, settling debts, and distributing assets.
Preparedness is key.
According to a recent Investopedia article titled “The Executor’s Checklist: 7 Tasks Before They Die,” this starts before the testator dies.
What can you do?
Locate estate planning documents.
You will need to probate the last will.
After all, the word probate is derived from the Latin word “probare” or “to prove.”
To prove what?
For starters, that the last will presented to the probate court truly is the “last will” of the testator and not the “second-to-the-last-will of the testator.
Consequently, when you accept the role of the executor, you will need to ensure you know the location of all estate planning documents.
The testator should have the originals in a secure location and copies in a secondary location.
Wherever these are placed, you will need to have access to them.
Retitle accounts if appropriate.
Does the testator have a spouse?
If yes, it may be best to have assets pass directly to the surviving spouse.
To do so, title property in both names as joint tenants with rights of survivorship in Kansas and as tenants by the entirety in Missouri.
Make a list of the funeral preferences for the testator.
As the executor, you should ask the testator write these down and sign them so this process goes smoothly.
For example, the decision regarding burial or cremation must be made quickly.
Draft a list of possessions and their recipients.
Not all items have financial significance.
Some possessions simply hold sentimental value, like “grandma’s yellow pie pan” or that “ceramic bullfrog” collection.
The list can include who gets what, how they should receive it, and why the beneficiary is receiving the particular asset.
Doing so can assuage potential hurt feelings and arguments.
Create an accounting sheet.
The testator should annually update his estate assets.
By doing so, when the time comes you will have a fairly accurate view of the estate when the testator dies.
Create a sealed document for online accounts.
The passwords, usernames, and security information should be provided as well as instructions for what to do with the accounts.
The executor may need to shut down these accounts after the decedent has passed.
Meet relevant professionals.
As the executor, you should know the accountant, estate planning attorney, financial planner, and other professionals upon whom the testator relied.
Knowing these individuals and being able to ask them questions will help you immensely as you endeavor to do your job effectively and efficiently.
Executors are responsible for the estate after the testator passes, but preparation beforehand will help ensure a successful outcome for everyone he leaves behind.
Reference: Investopedia (July 11, 2019) “The Executor’s Checklist: 7 Tasks Before They Die”