When you agreed to serve Aunt Polly as the executor of her estate, she was in good health, so becoming her personal representative seemed years away.
Unfortunately, Aunt Polly died much sooner than expected. Here are five tips to help you administer her estate successfully.
1. Obtain the important documents
As a personal representative for your aunt, you must obtain her will and file a copy with the probate court. Note that if she had a living trust, you may be able to avoid probate altogether and distribute the assets immediately. Next, you must make funeral and burial arrangements. The funeral home can provide you with as many copies of the death certificate as you need. You will use these to notify banks, the Social Security Administration and other entities of the death of your aunt.
2. Protect the assets
The attorney who prepared the will probably has a list of assets belonging to Aunt Polly’s estate. The list may include bank account and investment account information and perhaps a list of collectibles. You must protect all assets until you wind up the affairs of the estate and are ready to make distributions to beneficiaries.
3. Settle accounts
As executor, you will set up an estate account from which to pay all the bills that are due. You will also file final tax returns.
4. Seek professional help
You will have questions as you work with estate matters and with beneficiaries. Do not hesitate to ask for help from accountants, financial advisers, attorneys and other professionals.
5. Take your time
Do not try to rush the process of administering your late aunt’s estate. Remember that you have a legal responsibility as her personal representative and must avoid making any missteps.