When someone dies, often there is a person named as the executor of their estate. Being named the executor of (or the personal representative to) someone’s estate is a serious matter, and one has to be responsible with each of the assets in the dead person’s estate.
Usually, being named an executor (if you are a man, or an executrix if you are a lady) is not a surprise; usually one is named and accepts the role, long before the time of the passing of the person who died. Usually, executor paperwork is notarized.
This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
While you might earn and receive a fee or other compensation for being the executor and handling the estate, the assets and money in the estate is not yours. If you spend or use any assets in the estate, without first getting written permission from everyone named as a beneficiary in the estate and the court documents, you can expect serious legal trouble, including the possibility of jail time; so do not have a party with any funds that are not yours.
While some executors must post bonds, if you are well-known and trusted, being named and acting as an executor to an estate will not require you to post a bond. Subject to a judge’s order, you can be paid from the deceased’s estate. Being an executor has many responsibilities including securing all assets of the deceased, determining who are the heirs, and paying the debts of the estate, including court judgments.
As an executor, make sure you comply with all laws, whatever the judge orders, and the specific instructions detailed in the decedent’s will or other estate plan directions. Do not ignore a judge’s or a court’s order. Stay polite to everyone, especially in court.
Sometimes relatives may want something that belonged to the deceased. Some relatives may claim they are entitled to an asset, contrary to what was specified in the will or estate plan. Anything with actual or imagined significant value should be transferred out of the estate, only after first getting the permission of the court and all the heirs. Expensive assets might need to be sold at an auction. The deceased’s property must be protected until it is sold or transferred.
Unless the estate is simple, consider retaining a probate attorney to help you do things correctly, and meet the obligations owed to all parties. Figuring out who is a qualified and legitimate heir might require an attorney’s help; because sometimes previously unknown potential relatives might appear and want a payment in large estate situations. Being an executor to an estate is not easy, however the reward is (mostly) knowing you helped to complete the final wishes of the deceased.