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As an executor, how should you get started?

Being the executor of an estate is no easy task. You may have accepted the role because you did not want to disappoint your loved one, or you may have felt particularly suited to the tasks ahead. Of course, you and many other Massachusetts residents may not fully understand what all is involved with settling an estate.

Once the process gets underway, you may find yourself wondering what actions you need to take. Because any information your loved one left behind as part of his or her estate plan will be vital to the probate process, gathering those documents is a wise starting point.

Necessary documents

After your loved one's passing, you will need to obtain the death certificate and multiple copies of it. You will need these extra copies to close certain accounts, to obtain the remainder of a loved one's benefits, and to file his or her final tax return. Closing accounts and alerting the necessary parties of the death as soon as possible is wise. If you wait too long to alert the Social Security Administration, for example, any payments made to the estate after the person's death will likely have to be paid back.

You will also need your loved one's original will or trust documents. Hopefully, your loved one will have told you where to find these important documents when asking you to be the executor. In order to begin the probate process, you will need to file the will with the appropriate court.

Protect the assets

It is not uncommon for people overwhelmed with grief to want something to remember their loved ones by. However, they cannot simply go into the decedent's home and begin taking items, even small ones. Any missing assets could cause considerable problems during the asset distribution part of the probate proceedings. Therefore, it is your job as the executor to ensure that all assets remain protected, which could mean having to change the locks on the decedent's house.

Of course, these examples are only a few ways to get started when acting as the executor of the estate. The specific details of your loved one's affairs will play an important part in determining the exact steps you need to take. Fortunately, you can work with a probate attorney who can help you through the entirety of the process to ensure that you perform your duties as well as possible.

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