When your loved one first approached you about acting as executor of his or her estate, you may not have fully understood what that meant. The person may then have told you that it would involve handling his or her final affairs after death, and because you likely knew that this position held importance to your loved you, you agreed to take on the role. After all, you probably would not have to worry about this duty for some time.
Now that your loved one has passed, you must step into your shoes as executor. Feelings of confusion and stress may greet you as you begin the process, and that is not uncommon. Your duties play an important part in the probate process, and these proceedings can take a considerable amount of time. In hopes of making the process go more smoothly, you may want to make sure you do not make major mistakes.
After your loved one's death, you -- like most California residents -- likely wanted to keep affairs as quiet as possible. After all, this is a very personal time. However, when it comes to probating an estate, you as executor will need to ensure that a public notice goes out regarding the probate process. This notice will give creditors the opportunity to come forward and make claims as well as other parties who may believe they have some stake in the estate.
If you do not advertise properly, creditors may have the ability to make claims after the standard time period for claims has passed. If that happens, you may find yourself dealing with financial complications.
Because most people like to cling to the memories of their loved ones, and because physical items can help them maintain those memories, individuals may have approached you in hopes of taking personal items from the estate. However, before letting any items go, you need to review the will and determine to whom your loved one left assets. If you let someone take a piece of property before the will is validated, conflict could arise if the will designates the item to someone else.
Additionally, even if you know the correct beneficiaries, you may not want to distribute their assets first. As mentioned, you will need to pay creditors and address other financial aspects in order to close the estate. If you distribute assets early, you could deplete the estate of funds needed to handle those remaining financial obligations, which could leave you on the hook.
If you feel confused about what steps to take first, you may want to speak with a professional. An attorney could guide you through the probate process and your duties as executor to ensure that you understand what responsibilities you hold.