So, you’ve been named the executor of a will. It’s not a job to take lightly. Dealing with wills in Bucks County – or anywhere else – means managing the administration of a person’s estate after they die.
And while the amount of time you need to commit to this role can vary, administering even a small estate comes with important responsibilities.
Here are a few of the things you’ll be expected to do as the executor of a will.
- Obtain a copy of the will and file it with the probate court
As executor, you’ll need to read and understand the will, before filing it with your probate court. For our local readers, that means a visit to the register of wills in Bucks County.
The will needs to be filed with the court system, even if probate – the process that happens when the deceased assets are only in their name – isn’t necessary. It’s also the executor’s job to represent the estate in court, if necessary.
- Notify institutions that the decedent has passed
This means letting the Social Security Administration, credit card companies, banks and other creditors know the decedent has died.
- Establish a bank account for incoming funds/outgoing bills
This can be a place to pay any bills that need to be paid – mortgages, utilities, paychecks if the decedent was a business owner – during the probate process.
- Make an inventory of the estate’s assets
Many states require executors to file an inventory of the estate’s asset with the probate court.
- Decide what sort of probate process is necessary
In some cases, it won’t be. It may be a case of one spouse inheriting another’s property, or property being automatically passed down from parent to child.
- Maintain property before sale
If your decedent left behind a house, you’ll need to make sure it’s kept in good condition until it’s either sold or given to heirs. The executor must also find any personal property left behind and protect it until distribution. This includes anything stored in safe deposit boxes.
- Pay any taxes and debts
In addition to notifying creditors, you’ll have to make sure the estate’s bills get paid. This includes filing a final income tax return from the first of the current year until the date of the decedent’s death. You may need to make sure state and federal estate taxes are paid, if the estate is large enough.
- Distribute the estate’s assets
This means adhering to the wishes in the decedent’s will. If they haven’t left behind a will, you’ll need to follow the state’s laws governing intestacy (the term for when someone dies without a will). In Pennsylvania, if someone dies without a will, their spouse or children will inherit their assets.
- Dispose of additional property
If there’s anything left over after paying debts and distributing assets to the heirs, it’s the executor’s job to dispose of it.
If all this sounds overwhelming, Gummer Elder Law can help. We’ve spent decades dealing with wills in Bucks County, and can guide you and your family through what is often a harrowing, emotional experience. Contact us today to learn more.