Estate PlanninG

Tips for Stressed and Overwhelmed Executors

While it's an honor to be named a trusted decision maker (a.k.a. executor or personal representative) in someone's will, it can also be a sobering and daunting responsibility. To meet responsibilities, being an executor requires a high level of organization, foresight, and attention to detail. It requires ensuring that all beneficiaries receive the accounts and property to which they're entitled.

If you're an executor feeling stressed and overwhelmed, you're not alone. Here are some tips to lighten the load.

1. Hire professional help.

The caveat to being an executor is that once you accept the responsibility, you also accept the liability if something goes wrong.

To protect yourself and ensure you are crossing all the "t's" and dotting all the "i's," hire an experienced estate planning attorney now. Having a legal professional in your corner helps you avoid pitfalls and blind spots and gives you greater peace of mind. In some states, it's actually a requirement that competent legal counsel represent an executor. That's why it's always a good idea to discuss your responsibilities with an attorney before you take action.

You don't have to cover the expense of hiring this counsel, either. As an executor, you're allowed to hire professionals to assist you in carrying out your responsibilities, and they can be paid from the deceased person's money. This includes professionals such as financial advisers and CPAs.

2. Get organized.

One of the biggest reasons you may feel overwhelmed as an executor is that the details seem to come at you from all directions. Proper organization helps you conquer this problem and regain control.

As experienced estate planning attorneys, we will advise you on what to do and when. But first, you'll need to gather several pieces of necessary paperwork. 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 this information to your first meeting will be a solid start.

As you continue the administration process, you may be required to open or manage the deceased person's bank accounts. You must keep records of all transactions because you'll be required to account for how much money has been spent. It's also important that you keep all of the deceased person's finances separate from your own. Do not deposit money into your personal account.

3. Create systems for good communication.

As an executor, you're the liaison between multiple parties involved in the probate process: the courts, the creditors, the IRS, the beneficiaries, 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 keep the process flowing smoothly and reduces the risk of disputes. It's worth repeating because it is so vital: keep records of all communications, so you can always recall what was said to whom.

If you've been appointed as an executor and feel 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 for an appointment - we look forward to hearing from you. Call Santaella Legal Group, serving all of California, at (925) 831-4840.

Keep reading:

What Happens If a Loved One's Estate Planning Documents Can't Be Found?

What You Need To Do After A Loved One Dies

6 Reasons You May Need to Hire an Attorney if Your Loved One Passes Away

Decanting: Redoing Your Loved One's Estate Plan