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Tips for executors

Wisconsin residents who are creating an estate plan may wonder what the duties of an executor are. The first thing an executor must do is get copies of the death certificate from the funeral home. It is best to get a number of these as they will be required when informing agencies and institutions about a person's death including the Social Security Administration, life insurers and banks.

Next, the will or trust document must be located. With this in hand, the executor can begin to get a sense of how complex the process will be. Executors are permitted to consult attorneys and other professionals as needed. If the estate has to go through probate, it is necessary to file letters testamentary with the court to prove that the executor has the legal authority to deal with financial and legal matters.

The executor is then responsible for locating and protecting assets. Even if the testator has not left a separate list, the assets are usually listed in the will. Some relatives might want to take one or two small items at this point, but it is best to safeguard everything until the process is finished. Bills and taxes must be paid, and assets can be distributed when probate ends. Heirs are not responsible for debts the estate cannot cover.

A person who is creating an estate plan might want to keep these steps in mind when choosing an executor. The executor does not need to be a legal or financial professional but should be someone who is able to manage family conflict effectively and who is organized. It may be useful to talk to the person under consideration before naming an executor. This allows the potential executor the opportunity to decline the role if necessary and ask any questions about the estate plan.

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