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Have you been named to be the executor of your parents will and don’t know exactly what you are supposed to do? The simple answer to what your responsibilities are as an executor is, you have been entrusted to carry out the last wishes of your parents. In the role of executor, you will have to demonstrate both administrative and emotional aptitude. Maybe the most important thing to remember is your parents have put their faith in you and your abilities to handle this responsibility.

As an executor, you will have the legal responsibility of taking care of the final financial obligations and overseeing the distribution of your parent’s assets as laid out in their will. You will also maintain their property until the estate is settled and you will attend any required court appearances.

Here is a checklist of a few of the tasks to assist you in the role of executor:

  • Talk to your parents – Once named as the executor, you should make sure you understand their expectations. The more you know about what their final wishes are the easier it will be when you are distributing property.
  • Keep the will and other documents in a safe place – You should get the original will along with other important documents such as insurance policies, bank accounts, social security information, credit card statements, pension plans, safe deposit box info and any brokerage account information and keep them all in a safe place.
  • Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate – To be safe, get as many as 10 copies of the death certificate so you can have them for insurance companies, banks etc.
  • Determine if probate is necessary – If you parents had set up a trust, you may be able to avoid probate. Probate is the process of distributing assets to beneficiaries in court. The person named as a trustee may be able to handle these duties without going through probate. You should speak with the attorney who set-up the trust to determine if probate is necessary.
  • Alert creditors and file the will with probate – One of the main duties as an executor is to notify credit card companies, banks and government agencies of the parents’ death. This is when you will need to provide the death certificate. Even if probate is not necessary, you will need to file the will in probate court.
  • Pay debts and taxes from the estate – Tax returns for the estate must be filed within nine months of the parents’ passing. Though they may not have federal tax due, there could be a state death tax. You should go through all finances and make sure every debt is paid.
  • Distribute assets – After you have settled all debts and taxes, you will need to distribute assets from the estate. It is a good idea to get a receipt from beneficiaries as evidence of receiving their distribution. If there is anything left over after all distributions have been made, you will be responsible for its disposal.

Being the executor for your parent’s is a responsibility you should take very seriously. But you do not need to take it on alone. You should get the expert advice of an attorney as you proceed through the process who can help you understand and accomplish each task of what can be a complicated process.