Guide for Estate Executors

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Executors of wills have legal liabilities and fiduciary duties that make responsibility a key asset. Try this guide for estate executors from an estate planning and probate lawyer in this free video on estate law.

Part of the Video Series: Estate Planning
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Video Transcript

So what does an executor really do? Well, an executor does a couple of things. The first thing the executor ought to do is make sure that the property of the deceased is secured. And what I mean by that is that maybe making sure the locks have been changed, making sure that the property is properly insured. Insurance companies sometimes charge completely different rates for a home that's occupied from one that's not occupied. Making sure that the property's properly inventoried. That may mean going to the safety deposit box and making sure that things are inventoried there. We never recommend that a family member serving as executor go to the safety deposit box alone. Even if you're not a family member, don't go there alone. Go with somebody else not related to you who can serve as a witness to what was in the safety deposit box so you don't get accused of taking things out of the safety deposit box that can't be found, and I'm sure mom left that diamond bracelet in there, and it's not there. So, go with somebody else. Secure the property. Second, make sure you've got a list of the deceased's debts. And that may take awhile to get, because bills may come in much later. Hospital bills, much later. Then you want to make sure you have a list of the deceased's property. Again, that could take a while, and then frankly you may never know for sure you've got all the property, because unless the deceased left a very complete listing of the deceased's property, you may have to wait months for statements to come in. Some statements are issued quarterly. Some statements may be semi-annually, and some statements annually. Until you've got all that information, you really are going to be hard pressed to start writing checks to the heirs. You may be able to write some earlier on, but don't forget your primary job as executor is to pay the bills. Pay the taxes, pay the expenses of the estate administration, and then, and only then, write checks to heirs.

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