If you’re named as an estate executor, the estate plan itself does give you guidelines for what the other individual wanted. But you are the person who is in charge of ensuring that those guidelines are followed.
For example, perhaps the person has three adult children and they want to split their assets up evenly between them. The estate plan may provide this instruction, but it is up to you as the estate administrator to gather these assets, make an inventory, distribute copies of the estate plan, compare the instructions to the inventory, transfer assets and distribute financial accounts.
One of the other jobs that you’re going to have is paying off the debt that remains with the estate. Much of the time, taxes have to be paid at the end of the year for income that was earned or property that is owned. Credit cards have to be paid or final bills have to be sent to phone companies and utility companies.
Does this mean you could lose money?
Estate administrators who have not gone through this process before are sometimes concerned that they are legally obligated to pay the debts. If the estate doesn’t have enough money, then the executor worries that they will have to personally pay, meaning that they will lose money instead of gaining an inheritance.
But the good news is that only cosigners or joint account holders are responsible for debt. If you’re not in this position, then your obligation is just to use the money from the estate to pay off those debts. You do not lose any money, although those who expected to inherit may get less than they anticipated.
Be sure you know exactly what legal steps to take as an estate executor, as it can be a complex process.