“I’m the Executor. What happens next?” It’s one of the most frequently asked questions that we receive after the passing of a loved one. Most Executors assume that they need to get the Will in their hands as soon as possible so that they can begin to initiate the paperwork and get their job done. Pretty much everyone thinks that the ball has to start rolling right away.
In general, when someone passes, the Executor has some time before they begin to deal with any Estate issues. We recommend taking this time to focus on you and those around you who are also dealing with the death. There is no need to rush into doing things with the Estate. In fact, many things can’t happen right away. Most Wills have provisions that specifically state that nothing can be distributed right away, as any beneficiaries must survive for thirty days after the death of the person in order to receive their entitlement.
Most people think that they need to start taking care of things right away in order to get through the process quicker. However, when dealing with Estates, speed is not an indicator of success. Many steps in the process cannot be rushed and will take time.
Many people also believe there needs to be a “reading of the Will”, and that it needs to be done right away and with many people present. That’s only true in the movies and Agatha Christie novels. It’s not a step in the process in any kind of formal or official way. When it is time for the Executor to start dealing with the Estate, they can meet with one of our lawyers to review the Will and understand what steps need to be taken first. After that, any kind of “reading” is up to the Executor.
We advise that everyone take the first one to two weeks after the passing of a loved one to allow yourself the time to process your own emotions before delving into a process that, even at the best of times, can be difficult.
The only time you need to spring into action is if there is property that needs protecting or managing. This could be real estate or a business. In these cases, it is important to come up with a short term plan. It’s even better if this short term plan has been known to you for some time.
Funeral homes, banks, and other outlets that you may deal with in those first few days may offer a lot of advice and even tell you a lawyer isn’t necessary to do the job of Executor. We think it’s always better to check in with a lawyer to help you determine if you need one or not. To put your mind at ease, call a lawyer, book an appointment at a future date, and confirm the location of the Will. As an Executor, it’s always going to be expected that you know your responsibilities, and getting an orientation from an estate professional is the best way to meet that expectation.
If you or someone you know is an Executor, please know that it’s okay to mourn, to breathe, and take time before starting down the path of being an Executor.