I was speaking with a husband and wife from Franklin, and the husband’s mother had just recently passed away. The husband mentioned that he was the executor under his mother’s will, but wasn’t sure what he needed to do. This couple expressed some additional concern because they had heard horror stories about how long probate takes, different ways an executor can be sued, and how much this could end up costing them.
Therefore, I outlined for this couple six things that they need to know as an executor when administering an estate:
- Admit the Last Will and Testament to Probate
I told this couple that the first thing to do is to open a probate estate and admit his mother’s last will and testament to probate. I explained that this is a public court proceeding where the court will oversee the settlement of his mother’s estate. However, first, the last will and testament must be admitted, and anyone who is a party to this case can contest the validity of the will.
- The Executor Must Give Notice
I next discussed with this couple that he has a duty as executor of his mother’s estate to give notice to all potential parties involved in this case. I continued to explain that this includes all heirs, beneficiaries under the last will and testament, and all possible creditors.
- Compile an Inventory and Accounting of Assets
I also discussed with this family that a detailed accounting and inventory of all of his mother’s assets would need to be compiled. I explained that we would need to make a list of all his mother’s personal property in her home, her cars and other vehicles, bank accounts, and other investment accounts. In addition, depending on the type of personal property involved, an appraiser may need to be appointed to assess a value to the assets. In addition, once this was completed, this detailed accounting and inventory would be filed with the court.
- All Valid Debts and Claims Will Need to be Paid
In addition to everything we discussed, I also discussed any valid claims and debts would need to be paid out of the assets of the estate. Specifically, I discussed with this family that his mother’s final medical bill of $35,000 and her two credit cards of $2,500 each would need to be paid. I also explained that creditors are also given a period of four months in which to file a claim against his mother’s estate claiming that they have a valid debt that needs to be paid. If these debts are determined to be valid, then these debts must be paid out of the assets of the estate before any assets can be distributed to the family.
- Distribute the Remaining Assets to the Family
Finally, I explained to this couple that once all the debts had been paid and all the costs of administering the estate had been paid including the court costs, attorney fees, appraiser fees, the compensation to the executor, and all the other miscellaneous costs, and after the court had issued an order authorizing him to do so, he could proceed with distributing the remaining assets to the other family members and beneficiaries of his mother’s estate.
- Caution: Follow All The Rules When Administering The Estate
I also ended my conversation with this family with a few words of caution. I explained that it was extremely important that he follows all the rules as the executor when administering his mother’s estate. I further discussed with them that this included not spending any money out of the estate without authorization, paying all the valid claims of the estate, and not disbursing any funds until told to do so. I explained that failure to do so could result in being removed as executor of his mother’s estate, additional costs to appoint a new executor of the estate, and even personal liability and contempt of court for failing to follow the court’s directions.