Every story must begin somewhere, so let’s get to it. Your widowed mom, may she rest in peace, lived, and died, in Texas. She was survived by you and your 4 siblings, all unruly rascals who think “smash and grab” is an acceptable shopping technique.
In her profound wisdom, your mom left behind a will that named you as her independent executor and left everything to be divided among her 5 children. You decide to accept the role of independent executor because if you did not then one of your thieving brothers or sisters would be appointed and your inheritance would mysteriously disappear.
Accordingly, you hire a lawyer, file the will for probate, and get appointed independent executor of your mom’s estate. Now what?
What To Do After Being Named Executor
It is simple, really: you gather assets, pay debts, and make distributions to the beneficiaries against a backdrop of court deadlines, notification deadlines, and tax deadlines, all overlaid with fiduciary duties.
Specifically, within 1 month you must publish a Notice to Creditors. Within 2 months you must mail a notice to the secured creditors of mom’s estate, and you may want to give discretionary notice to the unsecured creditors, too. Within 90 days you must file an inventory, appraisement and list of claims, or an affidavit in lieu of inventory.
Hiring a CPA is helpful because there are tax things you must do. You should get a federal tax number for your mom’s estate and file a fiduciary notification form. No later than the 15th day of the 4th month after the close of the calendar year, you must file your mom’s final tax return. For tax purposes, you can use values either as of your mom’s date of death or 6 months after her date of death. You may need to file a federal form 706 within 9 months of the date of her death. You also may need to file an income tax return for the estate.
You should invest in a financial software package to keep up with your record keeping because you have a duty to keep records and accounts. Set up an estate bank account, consolidate your mom’s accounts, look in her safety deposit box, and notify the financial institutions who issued credit or debit cards to your mom.
Ah, but those are in the future.
An Executor’s Immediate Duties
Your immediate duties may be more demanding. You may need to quickly take charge of your mom’s pets, change locks on your mom’s house, stop deliveries and utilities as appropriate, place valuables in a secure location, inventory personal items, confirm assets are covered by insurance, and store automobiles. At some point, depending upon the terms of the will, you will want to divide personal property.
Above all, you don’t want to provoke hostilities where they can be avoided. You should be sensitive to the feelings of your siblings and communicate with them regularly. Changing the locks should be described as “keeping mom’s things safe until we can divide them.” If mom’s will states that her personal possessions should be divided among her children, then you should ask for their participation in making the decisions. If they can’t decide, then you devise the system – picking numbers, asking for a list from each beneficiary, or selling everything at an estate sale.
That is but the first chapter in the story that is your mom’s probate. There will be many more. As the independent executor, it will be your duty to write them.