executor reviewing loved one's will
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Being the executor of an estate is a major responsibility. It can be overwhelming to take those first steps of executorship, especially as you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one. Fortunately, whether you live in Kentucky, Ohio, or any other state, the duties of an executor tend to remain the same.

Take a look at this guide to the initial steps you will need to take as an executor after a loved one has passed away.

Take Responsibility for the Household

Your loved one had a home to care for and possibly dependents that relied on them. Just because they are gone, this doesn’t change. Consequently, you will need to take responsibility for the household as quickly as possible.

This means you need to see that any pets are cared for, dependents have a place to live and resources to survive, and bills for the home continue to be paid. You don’t necessarily have to do this all personally, but whoever does the work needs to keep extensive receipts for any costs.

Notify Relevant Parties

Notifying appropriate parties about the death of your loved one can be challenging for both you and those receiving the news. Consider only directly contacting the closest family and friends, and ask others to notify more distant relations. This takes some of the work off your shoulders.

You will also need to contact financial institutions and local authorities. The funeral home can help you get death certificates and contact all legal entities that must be aware of the death.

Find Critical Documents

Hopefully, when you were made executor, you were given straightforward ways to access critical documents. If you weren’t, you may need to scour the computer of your loved one or look through file cabinets. You want to try to locate:

  • Social Security information
  • Bank account information
  • Tax returns
  • Insurance policies
  • Titles and deeds
  • Investment documents
  • Their birth certificate
  • Marriage and divorce certificates
  • Anything in a safe deposit box or safe

You may need to hire a private investigator to help you with this search. If you do, make sure to document any costs for the search.

Additionally, you may be able to get some financial documents from your loved one’s last employer. You will need to call them anyway if your loved one was still working at the time of their death. But even if they weren’t their most recent employer should be able to direct you to helpful information.

Arrange for a Funeral

Funeral arrangements may have been made before your loved one passed away. Many people include funeral arrangements in their will. But you will still have some work to do.

You need to decide when the funeral or service will be and pay for any services. Furthermore, someone needs to prepare an obituary for the deceased, and it needs to be sent to local newspapers.

Just as the funeral home will assist you with contacting local authorities, it will likely help with this as well.

Contact the Probate Court

Before the estate of your loved one can be distributed, you need to contact a local probate court. Even when there is an ironclad will, the court needs to determine that the last wishes of the deceased are being respected and that everyone involved is notified and has an opportunity to contest the will.

How an Experienced Estate Attorney Can Help

Executorship can feel like a daunting task. Executors are expected to perform legal duties without any training, all while grieving the loss of a loved one. This is where an estate planning lawyer comes in.

At Shaw & Nelson, our seasoned and compassionate legal team can help you navigate this process every step of the way. We proudly serve families in both Louisville and Cincinnati. Book a call with us today.