Like many people who have created an estate plan, individuals in Florida tend to avoid speaking with the named executor of their estate. Because of this, you may suddenly find yourself thrust into the role of executor if someone you loved recently passed away.
Learning you are the executor of an estate following the death of a loved one can be an intimidating experience. An executor's responsibilities are time consuming and carries significant responsibilities. Thoughtful preparation can help reduce the stress you may be feeling.
What does the executor do?
If you are a named executor, you are responsible for ensuring the decedent's wishes via his or her estate plan are carried out following their passing. In its most simple form, you are tasked with paying the decedent's outstanding debts, then distributing any remaining assets to the heirs, pursuant to their wishes.
All executors owe a fiduciary duty to the heirs. In other words, you must act with the utmost good faith regarding the decedent's will and wishes.
What steps do I need to take?
If you are named an executor, you may not know how best to begin. Below are three of the most important steps executors in Florida should take:
1. Get the death certificate: In order to fully administer an estate, you will likely need several certified copies of the death certificate. You can easily obtain a death certificate from the funeral home in charge of the decedent's memorial services.
2. Locate all necessary documentation: When administering an estate, you will need to gather the decedent's important legal and estate planning documents. This may include wills, trusts, investment documents and real estate deeds.
3. Seek professional assistance: Florida's probate and estate administration processes are exceptionally complex. Attempting to handle the process on your own without help from a legal professional could lengthen the estate administration process and potentially increase your risk of making a mistake. You should contact a probate attorney to help ensure that you are completing your job as executor correctly.