No one particularly enjoys being a personal representative, also known as an executor. Even if you weren’t close to the deceased, it still can be a significant amount of paperwork and hassle. However, having a personal representative is a necessary part of property distribution.
If you should find yourself in the position of probating a will, taking care to organize your workload will make your duties significantly easier.
Probating a Will
- Death certificate. As a personal representative, you will be in charge of making funeral and burial arrangements and paying for those costs out of the estate (unless there is a pre-paid funeral plan in place). The funeral home will provide you with copies of the death certificate, which will be necessary when you notify creditors, the Social Security Administration, and other entities during the probate process.
- Will and/or trusts. Your next step is to locate the will and/or the trust documents. You’ll need to file the will with the probate court. Trust assets may be immediately disbursed to beneficiaries without needing to go through probate.
- Consult an estate attorney. At this point, consulting an estate attorney is recommended. Making mistakes at this time can be a costly hassle, and an experienced estate attorney will be able to guide you about proper procedure and potential pitfalls.
- Letters testamentary. If the estate needs to go through probate, you’ll need to obtain from the court “letters testamentary,” which is a court decree that you are the personal representative / executor and have the authority to perform duties on behalf of the estate.
- Protect assets. Your next duty will be to locate and protect assets. Many people will have a list of their debts, assets and other important financial information. If this list does not exist, you will have to take on the task of finding them yourself, and informing the respective institutions that you are acting on behalf of the deceased.
- Bills and taxes. Finally, you will be required to pay any outstanding bills and taxes on behalf of the deceased. This money will come from the estate. If the estate is not large enough to pay the entirety of the debt, you will need to follow the rules to prioritize which creditor should be paid first in an insolvent estate.
One final note: at times, the estate’s beneficiaries may be quite impatient for the assets to be distributed and may not understand the steps required for probating a will. While you may feel obligated to assuage their concerns, the most important thing is to ensure that you are following the law to the utmost degree. This is another reason having an estate attorney on hand can be a great help; some family members are more apt to listen to the advice of a professional as opposed to someone they consider “adversarial.”
Naming a Personal Representative
If you are preparing an estate plan, there are steps you can take to make things easier on your estate’s personal representative. Please contact Baker Law Group, P.C. if you would like assistance with your will and overall estate plan. We will help you assess your current and future needs and create a comprehensive estate plan that will protect you and your assets as well as make the probate process easy for your personal representative.
Our probate attorneys assist personal representatives in probating a will. At Baker Law Group P.C., have considerable experience with the Massachusetts probate administration process.
We offer a complimentary initial consultation to discuss your situation and how we may be able to help.
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