If you have been named the executor of an estate following the death of a loved one, there's no doubt you are reeling with the amount of work ahead of you. It's not an easy job, but one that must be done. Part of your responsibilities is to handle the personal possessions of the decedent, which involves distributing certain items to heirs and liquidating and getting rid of the rest. Here are a few things you'll need to do.
Distribute Prized Possessions to Heirs
As the executor, you will need to locate heirs that are listed in the last will and testament so you can distribute the items the decedent wanted them to have. This may involve hiring a private investigator to locate some of the heirs if you don't know their whereabouts. Most estate lawyers who handle these types of cases have private investigators on contract. Even if you are not working with a lawyer, it's a good idea to hire one to handle this part of the process. The last thing you'll want to have happen is to give a prized possession to the wrong person.
Sell to Liquidate As Much As Possible
The personal possessions that weren't specifically listed in the will can and should be liquidated, especially if there is debt to cover and heirs listed in the will to receive funds from the value of the estate. Estate liquidation services can prepare the items for sale. It's a good idea to hire this type of professional service so the items can be priced properly.
Estate liquidation services have a good understanding of the current market values and the prices that people will be willing to pay. You can expect to pay a certain percentage to the service for the work they do. Of course, the payment will come from the proceeds of the sale, so you can rest assured that the estate liquidation service will do as much as it can to get top dollar from the sale.
Donate What Doesn't Sell
What doesn't sell in the estate liquidation can be donated, preferably to a charity that offers a tax credit for donation of goods. This can help reduce the amount of estate taxes that you will need to take care of as part of your role as the executor of the estate. It's a good idea to get advice from your lawyer regarding any charities and the tax credits they offer. Also, you'll want to have the lawyer vet the charity to ensure it is one that is in good standing.
Clearing Out & Cleaning Up the House
After you've sold and donated as many of the possessions as possible, you'll need to remove the rest of the things from the decedent's home and property. To make this easier for you, hire a junk removal service instead of renting a dumpster and doing the clearing out yourself. If you do it yourself, you may find this part of the job as an executor emotionally challenging. Once the things are moved out of the home and off of the property, hire a cleaning crew to prepare the home for sale or for the heir who inherited it.
Helpful tip for co-executors: If you are listed as a co-executor, you'll need to work as a team with the other person(s) who are also assigned with the duties at hand. Be sure that all the duties are agreed upon before anything is carried out. That way, you'll reduce the risks of the other co-executor(s) challenging your decisions in the future.
It's a privilege to be listed as the executor of an estate. It means that your loved one held you in high regards and trusted you with doing the job. So, do the job well.