Serving as an Executor/Personal Representative comes with a lot of responsibilities and can often feel like a full-time job. Depending on the North Carolina or South Carolina court procedure utilized and the unique situations that may arise during the course of administration, the timeline to settle an estate can span from several months to multiple years. Feeling overwhelmed or fatigued is something that Executors/Personal Representatives may experience while administering an estate in addition to navigating the grief felt from the loss of a loved one.
Below are some tips that Executors/Personal Representatives may find helpful as they undertake their role:
- Take the time needed to grieve and process emotions. Executors/Personal Representatives often feel pressured to start the administration process as soon as possible. However, typically there is not a deadline in which to open an estate with the probate court. Executors/Personal Representatives should feel empowered to process the emotions following a loved one's death before undertaking the responsibility of administering the estate.
- Fully understand duties and timelines. Understanding what is required of an Executor/Personal Representative, as well as the estimated timeline to settle the estate prior to starting the process, is key to help manage expectations for both the Executor/Personal Representative and the beneficiaries of the estate. If an appointed Executor/Personal Representative is ill-equipped or unfit to perform the duties/responsibilities required, there are options for the Executor/Personal Representative to step down from such a role.
- Engage a comprehensive team of advisors. The Executor/Personal Representative can lean on other professionals to ease their burdens. Not only will a comprehensive team of advisors (attorney, accountant, etc.) guide an Executor/Personal Representative through the administration process, but they will also ensure that court filings, tax returns, receipts and distributions are handled properly and filed timely.
- Gather and provide information to advisor team. Executors/Personal Representatives should disclose to the advisor team as much information and documentation related to the decedent's family situation, assets, and liabilities as early as possible in the administration process and as it is received. Doing so can help the advisor team determine if a shortened court procedure may be utilized, identify potential issues that could arise, ensure estate deadlines are met, and potentially minimize professional fees.
- Keep detailed records. It is imperative that Executors/Personal Representatives keep accurate and detailed records of all communications with third parties (i.e., financial institutions, IRS, creditors) and beneficiaries, along with documentation of receipts, expenses, and distributions. This is to help protect Executors/Personal Representatives from liability and will also assist the advisors in completing court and IRS filings.
Our team is passionate about helping families grieving the loss of a loved one by alleviating the burden of any necessary legal obligations, such as reviewing the existing estate planning documents, administering the estate with the probate court, and updating estate plans for surviving family members given the significant change in circumstances. Contact our office for more information or to schedule an introductory telephone call to learn more about the estate administration process.