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What does being an executor involve?

If a loved one asks you to be the executor of his or her estate, it's understandably not something you want to think about until you have to. However, after your loved one is gone, you're likely going to be in a state of grief and perhaps denial.

Therefore, it's important to know what being an executor entails and to be as prepared as possible when the time comes. The more detailed and organized your loved one has been in his or her estate planning, the easier the job will be for you.

First, you need to access the original will and other estate documents. You'll also need to obtain multiple copies of the death certificate. The funeral home can get you those certificates. If your loved one lived alone, it's also essential to ensure that the home is safe, that mail doesn't accumulate and that bills get paid.

If your loved one has an estate planning attorney, he or she will help you deal with the legal and financial issues. If the attorney who drafted the will is no longer around, you should seek guidance from an estate planning attorney in the state where your loved one lived.

If the will has to be probated, there are fees assessed. You may have to pay some costs out-of-pocket. Keep records of those so that you can get reimbursed from the estate.

Administering the estate will consume the bulk of your time and energy. This process includes finding all of the assets owned by the deceased. It also includes paying taxes and debts owed by that person. You'll need to distribute assets to heirs and beneficiaries as your loved one designated and finally pay yourself as the executor.

If someone asks you to be an executor and you aren't the closest living relative, consider whether this is something you want to take on before you say yes. It requires time, patience and good organizational skills.

If you agree to be the executor, make sure the person has a current, comprehensive estate plan and that you know where to locate everything you'll need. Know where all of the documents are, where necessary passwords are stored and who the estate planning attorney is. Make sure you have everything necessary to begin your job when you are called on to do so.

Source: Kiplinger, "How to Perform the Duties of Executor of an Estate," Daniel A. Timins, Esq., CFP, accessed March 12, 2018

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