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If you have been named the executor of an estate, you probably have a lot of questions regarding what you will have to eventually do.  By law, there are many tasks the executor must complete and they are all equally important.  The information that follows can help get you started, but you should always get a probate attorney involved to help guide you through the process. 

One first thing you must do is wrap up the deceased party’s outstanding financial affairs.   You must notify all known creditors of the deceased person’s passing as well as canceling all credit cards so no new charges can be accrued, especially if there are other authorized users.  If the deceased has been collecting Social Security you will have to notify the Social Security office.  No checks should be cashed after their death and if any direct deposits are made the funds must be returned.    

The next thing that should be done, once the probate estate has been opened, is to obtain a federal tax ID number for the estate and open an estate bank account.  The most important thing is to keep estate assets separate and maintain good records.  If you are ever challenged regarding how much money came into or out of the estate, good record keeping will be your best defense.

If you are dealing strictly with a will, and no assets were held in a trust, all estate debts must be paid off the top before any distributions may be made to the heirs or beneficiaries named in the will.  Once all debts have been paid, you will need to provide all the beneficiaries named in the will a full accounting of the estate with the bottom line distribution for each beneficiary.

Lastly, if there is a piece of real estate that needs to be sold, you are the one responsible for maintaining the property until it can be distributed or sold.  That means, paying the utilities, mortgage, taxes, home owner’s insurance, clearing out all the personal property and listing the property for sale and signing all of the sale documents at the closing. 

Being an executor is a task that comes with a lot of responsibility.  The only way to protect yourself from liability and to make sure you follow the letter of the law, you must hire an attorney that is experienced in the probate process.  If you need help for Kane County, Cook County, DuPage County or Lake County Probate we can assist you in the process.

If you need help choosing an executor please read: Top Qualities of an Executor