The Executor Checklist

by M-Gillies
hour glass with last will and testament

An executor should be someone who has no financial stake in the will and won’t create a conflict of interest.

1. Determine if probate is necessary:
Depending on the size of the estate, it is important to decide if probate is necessary.

2. Decide if you need a lawyer:
For estates with a number of properties, significant tax liabilities, or the potential for disputes among inheritors, the assistance of a lawyer may prove beneficial as they can act as a coach in answering legal questions that may arise, research or look over documents for validity.

3. Get non-lawyer help:
If you have decided against hiring a lawyer, there are other means of getting help such as speaking with a probate court clerk to answer basic questions about court procedure (however, they won’t provide legal advice); staff lawyers in some courts will look over probate documents, pointing out errors in papers and explaining how to correct them.

4. File the will and notify beneficiaries:
File the will in the local probate court and ask for confirmation that you are the legal representative. It is important to send notice of the probate proceedings to beneficiaries named in the will and if necessary, to certain close relatives, who would be entitled to property had there been no valid will.

5. Locate and manage assets:
During the probate process (which generally takes a year), the executor will locate and secure the assets of the deceased.

6. Handle day-to-day details:
It is important to terminate leases and other outstanding contracts, and notifying banks and government agencies of the death.

7. Establish an estate bank account:
Set up an estate bank account in which to hold money that is owed to the deceased person, which may include paycheques and stock dividends.

8. Pay expenses and taxes:
Pay continuing expenses, including income taxes (from the previous tax return of the deceased), mortgage payments, utility bills and homeowner’s insurance premiums.

9. Pay debts and notify creditors:
Notify creditors of probate proceedings. They are then given a certain period of time (generally four to six months) to file a claim for payments of any bills or other obligations which you haven’t voluntarily paid, after which, a payment of any debts that the estate is legally required to pay is made. It is up to the executor to decide whether or not a claim by a creditor is valid, and will be up to the executor to pay the expenses.

10. Distribute property:
It will be up to you as executor to distribute property such as money, personal belongings and real estate to the beneficiaries or organizations named in the will.

11. Close the estate:
Once debts and taxes have been paid, all the property distributed to the beneficiaries, ask the probate court to formally close the estate.

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