7 Things an Executor Should Immediately Do!
Most people never serve as an Executor. For those who do serve, over 80% of them only do it one time. So, what are some things you can do right now to get things done correctly?
Help file for social security survivor benefits.
An unmarried, dependent child, either natural, adopted, or step is entitled to receive 50% of the worker's benefit if the child is under the age of 18 or a full-time student under the age of 19. A disabled child before the age of 22 is entitled to benefits too. It is important to note that Social Security considers stepchildren to be children for benefits if the decedent provided for at least half of the stepchild's support. Under certain circumstances, a grandchild might be eligible.
Find the Will and Get Organized!
Gather all information including important documents. FIND THE WILL ASAP! You will need the original. You would be surprised how many people destroy a will after a person passes away. As the Executor, you have the duty to secure it.
Search the office:
The most common place a will is left is a safe. If you do not have the combination see if any other family members have the combination. You can also look on a computer for the safe code. If not, you will have to call a locksmith. A locksmith will want to see a death certificate and some evidence that you are a family member who would normally have the right to be an executor.
Many times, people have storage units with filing cabinets. Check bank statements to see if the decedent was paying for a storage unit.
Safe Deposit Box
The death of the decedent does not prevent the other lessee of a safe deposit box from accessing the contents upon someone’s death (Texas Finance Code 59.106(a). If there are no other lessee of the box, then Texas Estate Code 151.003 and 151.004 permit examination of a safe deposit box by certain people who are designated in the code. If you are not a person designated in the code, then you will have to file a motion under Texas Estate Code § 151.001 and 151.002 which allows someone access if they have a court order.
It is a common practice, although not very wise, for the attorney who drafted the will to keep the original. If this is the case, search records for an attorney. If no attorney is found, call local offices and ask if they ever created an estate plan for the decedent.
See if you can find an electronic copy. Even though it is very difficult to probate a copy, it might be your only option.
It was popular back in the day to wrap up a will in many plastic bags and put it in the freezer. Might be worth checking.
Immediately take possession of firearms, take pictures of all guns, and don't commingle assets. The law in Texas allows convicted felons to possess firearms at the person's own home, under limited circumstances: once five years have elapsed after the later of either the person's release from confinement, parole, or probation. The law also allows people with family violence convictions to possess firearms once five years have passed after the later date of when the person was released from jail or probation.
Help with Funeral Arrangements
If the decedent purchased a pre-paid funeral contract, locate it. The US government has information here about funeral services costs. The individual who pays for funeral service has the first right of reimbursement. Texas Estate Code Section Sec. 355.102 contains the class list of claims. All costs on this list are classes 1 and 2. Important note funeral and last illness costs are limited to $15,000. Often people probate an estate to get reimbursed funeral costs before a mortgage is paid off.
Theft is common from family after a person passes and the personal representative is responsible to secure the property of the estate. Take pictures of everything on your phone. Often families don't realize that their mother has very valuable jewelry. Determining the value of jewelry is difficult. Right now you need to secure it. Here is a cheap carrying case. Here is a safe to put it in. Remember to keep track of these expenses to be reimbursed.
Preserve the Story
A decedent's money should be used to preserve their memory. Picture fade but scanning pictures in and keeping those pictures is a way to preserve them. Take the time to scan everything. You can do this with your phone or buy a photo scanner. If you don’t have time, pay a company to do it. There are many who you can send the pictures to and they will scan them in for you.
Open up a google sheet (if you don't have a google account set one up, it is free). Write down 10 main points from the decedent's life you can remember. Share this google sheet with as many people who will help start writing down the story of the individual. This might be parents, siblings, children, grandchildren. This will be the best thing you can do for the decedent. Attach this story to Ancestory.com or familysearch.com
Create a List of Professionals
Understanding all the professionals who help the decedent will assist you in gathering assets and documents.