Everyone should have a Last Will and Testament. There is really no excuse for not having this very important document. A Last Will and Testament allows everyone to specify what should happen to his or her property upon death. It will delineate who gets what personal property and real property.
The relatives or friends that are designated in a will to carry out loved one's wishes are called the executors. The executors take care of important tasks along with the probate attorney, including the necessary paperwork and apportioning assets according to the wishes of the decedent. Some of those tasks include closing accounts, making the appropriate notifications, and inventorying and distributing assets in a deceased person's estate.
In addition to paperwork, which mostly can be done by the probate lawyer, the executor can play a big role in minimizing family squabbles and trying to calm the nerves of potential heirs and beneficiaries.
But there are several steps you can take that will help your job as executor become much smoother.
BE A GOOD LISTENER: Somebody has just passed-away, so emotions can be raw. Make sure the person is very clear as to what they would like to happen to the estate once they are deceased, so if you're an executor, talk to the person who made the will to ensure that you understand his or her wishes. Everything must be detailed in the will.
If the writer of the will is going to feel uncomfortable with discussing some of their wishes with the executor, they can write a letter to be read or even leave a video with the appropriate instructions.
FILE THE WILL & DEATH CERTIFICATE: Once the person is deceased, your probate attorney must file the original will and death certificate with the probate court. You will then receive letters testamentary and that will then formally name you as the executor. This step must be taken before you can take any actions on behalf of the estate. It is recommended to order at least 10 or more extra copies of the death certificate for various transactions.
LOCK IT UP: When a loved one passes, you need to safeguard all valuables, empty houses, etc., to keep away thieves. There are people that look in the obituaries just to scam people and steal from empty homes once they find out people have died. Also, sadly, family members and friends of the deceased have been known to go the home immediately to take items that belonged to the deceased.
KEEP A SPREADSHEET: It is imperative to keep a spreadsheet of financial responsibilities. These responsibilities can include tax filings, debts, bills, etc.
Know where the original will is located
List of contacts and phone numbers/emails of doctors, employers, neighbors, relatives
Passwords for emails, social media accounts, bank accounts, computers, cellphones
BE TRANSPARENT: You have nothing to hide and you were chosen as the executor because you were thought to be intelligent, have good judgement, and are trusted. You have been given the authority to be the executor and the more open and transparent you are with the estate the less conflicts there will be from heirs and beneficiaries.
When you need a Last Will & Testament, a Georgia Financial Power of Attorney, a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care (which includes a living will), or just want to talk about your estate plan, call attorneys Valerie Sherman and Bill Sherman at 678-215-4106. With several offices, including in Roswell, Atlanta and Cumming, we are well-situated for you.