Losing a spouse is heartbreaking on its own, and it can be stressful as they leave behind a life that must now be closed out. The funeral must be planned, bank accounts need to be closed, potential pets need to be placed in new homes, and final bills must be paid. As an executor, you’ll be required to settle your deceased spouse’s affairs.
Duties as the Executor
The task of settling a deceased spouse’s affairs is more than a one-person task. You’ll want the help of lawyers and CPAs who will assist you in settling your loved ones financial matters. As the executor, you are the appointed individual who is legally bound to carry out the wishes of the deceased. You are responsible for managing assets, paying outstanding debt and bills, funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements, and distributing property to the beneficiaries.
While the process can be relatively straightforward with a thorough estate plan in place, there are still many moving parts. Often, settling a deceased spouse’s affairs may take up to one year. Shortly after, you will want to locate your spouse’s Will and gather copies of all required documents such as the last Will and testament, account statements, life insurance policies, deeds for any real estate, vehicle title, any contracts, tax returns, and the original death certificate. To assist in settling your loved one’s estate, it is often advised to get multiple copies of the death certificate, which can be obtained from the funeral home.
As the executor, you will need to notify, as well as stay in touch with beneficiaries and interested parties throughout this process. You will be responsible for paying bills, closing accounts, and taking inventory of assets. These tasks can be time-consuming, so having a checklist and keeping detailed records can be helpful. If any part of the estate is not included in the Will, then it will be required to go through the court probate process.
Certain assets, such as life insurance policies and IRAs, are transferred automatically upon death to the named beneficiaries. However, if no beneficiaries have been named, then the assets are transferring to the estate itself and must be settled by the executor along with the rest of the estate. It is important to keep good records during this process, as you may need to account for your actions to the court or other heirs.
Settling your spouse’s affairs as their executor is no easy task. Understandably, it can be difficult to grieve and also be the responsible party to distribute assets. It is important to have a thorough estate plan in place, to make the process smoother for family and friends. If you would like to discuss the best ways to plan for your future, please contact us at (413) 527-0517 or find us at www.legacycounsellors.com or www.facebook.com/LegacyCounsellors.