So You’ve Been Named an Executor in Someone’s Last Will and Testament…Now What?
As I often tell my clients, the decision on who to name as your executor is not always an easy one. Usually, for married couples, the decision is quite simple: name the spouse as executor. But what about a single individual or even a married couple who wants to add a backup should something ever happen to their partner? Who do they name? For clients with children, they often name their eldest child as executor. Is this always the right decision? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. For clients without children, they often name a close friend or family member. Again, is this always the right decision? We recommend naming a reliable, trustworthy person that will carry out all of your last wishes. In addition, we suggest naming a person that is a resident of the same state as you, if possible. The reason for this is that it is easier for the attorney to have an executor that is local as well as the courts tend to prefer a resident of their state.
After a person decides who should be their executor and what their plan of distribution (who gets what upon death) should be, then they need to have a licensed attorney in their state draft their Last Will and Testament (“Will”). Once the Will is executed, what are the testator’s (the person who created the Will) responsibilities? What are the executor’s responsibilities? The testator will need to notify the executor of the location of the original Will and any other important papers that they may need. The executor essentially has no responsibilities until the testator passes away.
When the testator passes, the executor should do all of the following:
- Locate the original Will
- Order death certificates from the funeral home
- Schedule a meeting with a probate attorney
- Determine what assets the testator had and locate the most recent statements for those assets. You will need to bring these to the meeting with the attorney, along with the original Will and death certificates.
- Determine what liabilities (debt) the testator had and locate the most recent statements for those liabilities.
- Make a list of all the testator’s children along with their addresses and phone numbers (if known). You will need to bring this to the meeting with the attorney.
- Make a list of all of the beneficiaries contained in the testator’s Will along with their addresses and phone numbers (if known). You will also need to bring this to the meeting with the attorney.
- Forward the testator’s mail to your address. This will be very helpful in determining what assets and liabilities the testator had if they were receiving paper statements.
- Shred all of the testator’s credit cards
- Notify the testator’s car insurance company, homeowner’s insurance company, and health insurance company of their passing.
- As a side note, do NOT drive a vehicle that is titled in the testator’s name until it has gone through the probate process.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. There will be more things for the executor to do, but this should have you better prepared for a difficult and confusing process until you meet with the attorney. We know this can be an overwhelming process. That’s why we, at Jackson & Gary, are here to help you every step of the way.