What Does an Executor do When Someone Dies?

         Have you been asked to serve as the executor of someone’s estate upon his or her death? The task sounds daunting, but a local attorney can guide you through the process seamlessly. Executors are identified in a person’s Last Will and Testament to carry out the tasks that are required to probate the deceased person’s estate. What does an executor do when someone dies?The process of going through Probate is referred to as “opening an estate.” Opening an estate is the method through which the deceased family member’s assets and possessions legally pass down to the family members of the deceased, or heirs.

The first thing you must do as executor of an estate is obtain copies of the death certificate of your deceased loved one. Then it is recommended that you obtain assistance of an estate planning attorney. An attorney will greatly reduce your stress and help guide you through the process of filing an inventory, notifying creditors, and distributing the asset. When selecting an attorney, ask up front what his or her hourly fees are or if they charge a flat fee for administering the estate. Either method of charging clients is acceptable, and no one method is better than the other, it is just a matter of attorney preference.

Once an attorney has been selected then you, through your attorney (or by yourself if you choose to go through this process without an attorney), will file the will with the appropriate Probate court. The next step is to create an inventory of the estate. An inventory identifies assets, otherwise known as the property (think land, nice furniture, jewelry, stocks, bank accounts) and liabilities, also known as debts (mortgage, car loan, student loan, credit cards), of the estate. Some wills waive the filing of an inventory. However, if your loved one’s will requires an inventory to be filed, it must be filed within two months of the estate being opened. The job of an executorThis process will likely require you communicating with your loved one’s insurance agent, attorney, accountant, investment advisor, and bank.

After you have identified the assets and liabilities of the estate, you need to create an estate account bank account which will be the bank account used to receive funds for the estate and make payments to creditors on behalf of the estate. Once you have identified the creditors of the estate, you must provide them notice that your loved one has passed away. A creditor has six months to make a claim that it is owed money by your loved one. After six months has elapsed, they are out of luck. You will pay the creditors out of the estate bank account for their valid claims against the estate.

Towards the end of the process, you will be responsible for distributing the assets, or property, of the estate to the heirs, also known as beneficiaries, listed in the will. Finally, you will be responsible for filing a tax return on behalf of the estate. This process sounds daunting, but with the help of a qualified and experienced attorney, it can be managed. As executor, you have the opportunity to honor your loved one’s wishes by distributing his or her property as they wished.

How Much Does Probate Cost in Alabama?

The costs of probate varies depending on a number of factors including the size and complexity of the estate, whether the person died with a valid will, whether there are any disputes as to the will or any debts left behind by the decedent, and where the probate action must be filed. How much does Probate cost in Alabama?Common expenses involved with probating an estate include filing fees and court costs, the estate executor’s fee, attorney fees, professional fees for accountants or other necessary services, and surety bonds.

Filing fees and court costs for probating a will differ based on where the case must be filed. For example, the filing fee to probate a will is about $57.00 in Jefferson County and $47.00 in Madison County, Alabama. Along those same lines, attorney’s fees and professional service costs such as appraisers, accountants, and land surveyors have varying fees based on a variety of factors including experience, size of the estate, and complexity of their involvement.

Some costs can be avoided in probate. For example, the executor of the estate, or the decedent’s appointed or elected personal representative, is entitled to reasonable compensation for their role in the probate process. This means, the executor is entitled to compensation in an amount up to 5% of the total value of the estate. As you can imagine, this can be a large sum. However, the executor can elect to waive their right to be compensated, thereby reducing the costs of probate by their share. How much does probating an estate cost in Alabama?Additionally, a person can waive the requirement that the executor post a surety bond before being appointed to represent the estate when they draft their will. Otherwise, the probate judge may require the executor to pay for and post a bond in an amount determined by him or her.

Also, although Alabama does not have any estate taxes, there are federal estate taxes that are assessed on individuals leaving behind estates that exceed a certain value. The Internal Revenue Service states that, for 2019, individual estates larger than $11.4 million or marital estates larger than $22.8 million will be subject to federal estate taxes and gift taxes. Estates valued below those amounts will be exempt from federal estate taxes.

Although the costs of probate can vary greatly, in most cases the probate fees are able to be paid out of the estate itself before any assets are passed on to the beneficiaries. The probate process can take as few as six months or as long as several years depending on the size and complexity of the estate and any issues that may arise during the probate process. Because probating an estate can be complicated and requires many different documents and steps, it is highly recommend like you hire an experienced probate attorney to help you.