What Does An Executor Need To Do When Someone Dies?
The executor of a will is not just in charge of the will, but the whole estate. They must maintain the estate while the will is being processed and until the contest period is over. This means there are a number of things they need to do immediately and shortly after the death of a person in order to take care of the estate and ensure it is kept in good condition to pass onto the beneficiaries.
Executor Tasks Immediately After Death
These are the tasks that the executor of a will is responsible for immediately following someone’s death. They need to be done on the day of the death.
Handle the Care of Dependents and Pets
Most people will make provisions for their dependents or pets, but the new guardians may not be able to take them right away. You will need to contact the people named as guardians and carers in the will so that they can start preparing to take the dependent and pets. As executor, you will also need to make short-term arrangements until they are ready to go to their new guardians. If there are costs for accommodation, food, care, or other items, keep the receipts and claim the money out of the estate later.
Take Care of the Home
You need to maintain the home and any other property assets until they are ready to go to the beneficiaries. If there are already people living in the home like a spouse, partner, or children, then there is nothing that needs to be done.
If the deceased lived alone, then as the executor you will need to maintain the home. This includes paying bills to keep essential utilities running (keep a record of the cost to claim from the estate later) and throwing out any perishable food in the fridge and cupboards. The executor should also consider changing the locks in order to stop family or friends from entering the home and claiming items before the will is dealt with.
Executor Tasks A Few Days After Death
Within a few days of the death, there are a few more tasks an executor needs to complete. These are logistical things that get the ball rolling on getting the estate ready for probate. As the executor, you might also have to help with some of the funeral arrangements. Discuss this with the family of the deceased.
Notify the Family and Friends of the Deceased
As the executor, you don’t necessarily have to do the notifications, but you are likely to be close to the deceased, maybe even a family member. Because of this, you can help the family and friends of the deceased.
It is best to split up the notifications. The immediate family should only be expected to make one or two notifications and only to other close family members. As the executor you can notify some people but keep the list small because you have other tasks to complete. Make phone calls to the nearest and dearest only and try to notify other people through email or text message.
Help With Funeral Arrangements
Again, this is not required of an executor, but you can help the family to make funeral arrangements if you wish. As the executor, you have access to the deceased’s papers and can tell if funeral arrangements have been made already and paid for in advance. If it has, then you can call the funeral directors and arrange for the body to be picked up.
If no funeral arrangements have been made or paid for in advance, then the family can make their own. One of the family members will pay for the funeral and burial or cremation. Advise them to give you, the executor, any receipts. The executor can reimburse the cost from the estate.
It is best for the executor to delegate the funeral planning but to provide support for the family members and guidance on how to manage it. Remember, there are many other tasks you need to do as an executor.
Prepare an Obituary and Funeral Notice
As the executor, it is not really a compulsory task to prepare an obituary or funeral notice, but it is something that would help the family. Consider sending an obituary to the papers of the states where the deceased lived if they lived in multiple states.
Order Death Certificates
When you are talking to the funeral home, ask them to organize copies of the death certificate for you. You will need at least 10 “original” copies to send to financial institutions and the probate court. As the executor, this is one of the most important functions. Work out how many financial institutions and companies for other assets you will need to send death certificates to.
Organize the Important Documents
As the executor, you need to find the documents you need to fulfil your duties as executor. These include:
- The will
- Social Security information
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Divorce decrees
- Life insurance policies
- Bank statements
- Property deeds
- Titles to vehicles
- Trust agreements
- Investment statements
- Keys to home safes and safe deposit boxes
These documents will make your job as an executor easy, and you should gather these within a few days of the death.
Get the Court to Declare You As The Executor
Even when you are named as executor in the will, the probate court must declare that they agree to you being executor. In most cases, they will agree to an executor, but they may challenge someone with a history of fraud or financial crimes. A probate lawyer can help you with the court process for being declared as executor.
Get Information About Employer Benefits
Many employees have health insurance, pensions, and even life insurance through their employers. Call the deceased’s employer to introduce yourself as the executor and find out the information of those polices. You need to know:
- The policy amount
- Named beneficiaries
You should also ask the employer if there is any pay to collect for the deceased and if they had life insurance. If they had life insurance, ask the employer to send you IRS Form 712.