So you want to be an Executor...

I received a call from a close relative last night, actually my Aunt. I was very moved and honored when she asked me if I would be the executor of her estate after she was gone. I think this is an enormous responsibility and I want to make sure all my actions would make her proud. Does anyone have any experience with what’s involved with this and what steps I should take now to begin to prepare?

Is your aunt critically ill? If not, not really a whole bunch to do before she dies.
If she has a will, you might as well get a copy of it.
If she really wants to be tidy, she can give you a list of her property.
How much of a pain it is depends on the size and complexity of her estate. If she has a really diversified portfolio, she could consolidate some of it.
At one time I had a pamphlet from the bar asociation, a bank, or someone explaining the duties and responsibilities, and powers of an executor. You might want to check out the availability of something like that.
You will file the will in probate court, if there is a one.
You will get a power of attorney and set up a bank account in the name of the estate.
And then you will disburse the estate.
The biggest pain in the ass comes if, say, she has a number of different stocks. You have to deal with each company individually. You will get to know your local banker quite well as you go to get your signature medallion authorized.
Most important will be keeping organized.
And I hope the heirs are not prone to arguing over the estate.

I was my father’s executor. It may be an honor, but it can very quickly become a major pain.

Your primary duty will be to liquidate her estate, pay off all the bills she leaves, and distribute the remainder to her heirs.

The first thing you should do is make sure that her will is up to date. Remember, the bitterest fights among the survivors are often over items that have great sentimental but little monetary value, so your aunt should begin cataloging keepskaes she wants to go to someone in particular.

Make sure your aunt is keeping her “affairs” in order. That means record-keeping, making regular payments, keeping track of various sources of income, etc. Also, while it’s not strictly your responsibility, compile a list of all her insurance policies, especially the ones that may be 50 or 60 years old that everyone has lost track of, and make sure the beneficiaries are up to date.

Speaking of beneficiaries, make sure you have everyone’s correct names and addresses, and keep that list up to date. Does your aunt have a favorite charity that she wants to make a bequest to? Get that information now.

Even if the estate is small, do not hesitate to use the services of a lawyer and accountant. There are legal and tax minefields out there and it will be money well invested.

Congratulations on you and your aunt for taking the matter seriously and taking steps to eliminate the headaches.

Excellent advice. Thank you both!

Just to add to what was said before, a difficult beneficiary can make your life very miserable.

For example, you may be accused of paying a debt that should not have been paid;

You may be accused of not investing estate funds properly;

you may be accused of favoring one beneficiary over another;

etc. etc.