While it is an honor to be named as an executor of a will or estate, it can also be a daunting responsibility and a thankless job. Being an executor (now known as a personal representative) requires a high level of organization, foresight, and attention to detail to meet responsibilities and ensure that all beneficiaries receive the assets to which they are entitled. If you’ve found yourself in the position of “overwhelmed executor,” here are some tips to lighten the load.
1. Get professional help from an experienced probate attorney.
The caveat to being an executor is that once you accept the responsibility, you also accept the liability if something goes wrong. As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” To protect yourself and make sure you’re crossing all the “i’s” and dotting all the “t’s,” hire an experienced probate attorney now. Having a legal professional in your corner not only helps you avoid pitfalls and blind spots, but it will also give you greater peace of mind during the process. In fact, in some states it’s a requirement that an executor be represented by competent legal counsel, so it’s always a good idea to discuss your responsibilities with an attorney before you start taking any actions.
2. Get organized.
One of the biggest reasons for feeling overwhelmed as an executor is when the details are coming at you from all directions. Proper organization helps you conquer this problem and regain control. We will advise you of what to do and when, but in general, you’ll need to gather several pieces of important paperwork to get started. It’s a good idea to create a file or binder so you can keep track of the original estate planning documents, death certificates, bills, financial statements, insurance policies, and contact information of beneficiaries. Bringing all of this information to your first meeting with your probate attorney will be a solid start.
3. Establish lines of communication.
As an executor, you are effectively a liaison between multiple parties related to the estate: namely, the courts, the creditors, the IRS, and the heirs. Create and maintain an up-to-date list of everyone’s contact information. Also, retain records such as copies of correspondence or notes about phone calls you make as executor. Open and honest communication helps keeps the process flowing smoothly and reduces the risk of disputes. It’s worth repeating because it’s so important — keep records of all communications, so you can always recall what was said and to whom it was said.
If you have been appointed as an executor, and you are feeling overwhelmed, we can provide skilled counsel and advice to help you through the process. We can also help you draft your own estate plan, so your family can avoid the stress of probate. Give our office a call today to schedule a free initial consultation with a Minnesota probate attorney.
Zach Wiegand is a Minnesota estate planning attorney and the owner of Gold Leaf Estate Planning, LLC. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is an estate planning law firm that also handles probate and trust administration in Minnesota. We serve the Twin Cities metropolitan area with a focus on estate planning for clients in Burnsville, Eagan, Savage, Prior Lake, Lakeville, Apple Valley, Eden Prairie and the South Metro as well as clients in Woodbury, Lake Elmo, Maplewood, Oakdale, St. Paul and the East Metro. Our firm has offices in both Burnsville and Woodbury (Lake Elmo). The firm also handles probate in Dakota County, Washington County, Scott County, Hennepin County, and Ramsey County and most other counties in the Twin Cities Metro area. Zach has been named a Minnesota Super Lawyer – Rising Star for 2017, 2018, and 2019, and he is a member of WealthCounsel – a national organization of estate planning attorneys dedicated to practice excellence. You can contact Zach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (952) 658-6503. Gold Leaf Estate Planning is located in Burnsville at 3000 County Road 42 W., Suite 310, Burnsville, MN 55337 and in Woodbury/Lake Elmo at 8653 Eagle Point.