After the Funeral

We’ve had the funeral.  What are my executor responsibilities now? 

When a loved one dies, you have an opportunity to say goodbye at a funeral.  But as executor, getting in your car after the service, you may be thinking, “now what?”  

Here’s what you need to do first.

Protect the Estate

The first thing the state of California recommends an executor do in their list of preliminary duties of an executor is safeguard the property.  We agree.  

A house that suddenly doesn’t have anyone living in it can be a magnet for burglars.  And without someone living in a house, little problems can occur without anyone noticing in time to fix them before they become big problems.  

So if there are trusted neighbors, ask them to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.  Call the local police and ask them to increase patrols in the area.  Or you can hire a service to come to the house on a regular basis to keep an eye on things. You can even install wireless alarm systems which will allow you to have security surveillance video in the home, smoke detection, water monitoring, and other features. 

Whenever you visit the house, walk the property inside and out and look for problems.  Run the water in the kitchen and bathrooms.  Flush all the toilets. Look for leaks.  Listen for problems that you can’t see but might be able to hear.  

Even if the deceased didn’t own a house, you need to make sure their possessions are secure and safe. It’s a fundamental duty of an executor.

One possession that most people don’t think about securing is money.  Is the heat/AC running unnecessarily?  Are there bills for garbage pickup, phone, cable, internet or subscription services that aren’t being used?  Cancel them if they are not still needed.  All this is covered in your personalized executor plan under the title “Manage the Estate, Eliminating Unnecessary Costs.”

Find the Will

In their estate procedures guide, the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts says it is important to search for a will when a person dies.  

You may already know where a will is.  If not, you may know the deceased’s local attorney who you can ask.  Or you can even ask other family or friends of the deceased.  

Of course, it is possible that the deceased did not have a will.  While this means the process will be a little different, it is mostly the same, as you can see from the outline Massachusetts provides when explaining forms for their formal probate process.  

Obtain a Death Certificate

As you complete your executor duties, you will find that you will need multiple copies of the death certificate.  One of the first things you’ll use this certificate for is to file the will with the probate court.  

Most states have forms like this one from Wisconsin that you fill out to get copies of the death certificate.  But the good news is that many funeral homes take care of this for you.  Just be sure to ask if this is something they do and if so, tell them how many copies you need.  We recommend 10 copies, as we explain in your executor plan.  

So when the funeral is over, don’t panic.  Of course, there will be a lot more to do, but we are here to help.  With your free, customized executor plan to help you in every step of your executor duties, you will be prepared to tackle the executor role.