If you have been nominated as the executor of an estate that includes real estate or perhaps you find yourself in a place where you will be exercising a power of attorney for another person, there are some initial steps that are important to know when it comes to residential real estate.
It’s a good idea to change locks and install automatic light timers. A phone call to the local police precinct to let them know the house is now vacant is a good preemptive measure as well as considering an alarm system if there is personal property of considerable value located in the property. Completely photograph the interior as soon as possible to document its contents with close up shots of smaller items such as jewelry and heirlooms. In cold weather geography like Buffalo, NY, it is often wise to professionally “winterize” the property. This involves getting the plumbing completely drained, including the hot water tank as well as placing antifreeze in the commodes to prevent burst pipes in case of a problem with the heating system.
A good second level of effort is to locate any leases, property tax bills, deeds that have conveyed real property, tax bills, the title search for as well as any surveys that may be available. Find up-to-date documents about the house’s mortgage and tax bills, and ensure that they are in good standing. If taxes are in arrears, call the town assessor’s office and let them know that you have stepped in to help and that the taxes will be brought current when you have the money and authority to do so. Locate the insurance policy for the property and discuss its terms with the attorney you are working with before taking any additional steps.
It makes sense to keep receipts for everything you do as you at times you don’t have full authority with respect to an estate until your nomination is approved by the surrogate court. All expenses related to the property also need to be identified in order to estimate the cash needs of the estate over the time period that it will be held, emptied and sold. Making a simple list and then projecting for one year’s time is a conservative enough approach if events proceed in a timely manner.
You’ve taken on a significant role by becoming executor or power of attorney and it will move along in with a lower level of stress and higher efficiency if you take it in smaller pieces with an eye on priority items.
This article originally appeared in The Buffalo News Homefinder and is reprinted with permission.
Have you ever wondered how to become executor of an estate after a death of a close friend or loved one? While we’ve written in the past about the important role an executor plays in securing, managing and liquidating the estate of a beloved friend or family member, this is one topic we’ve yet to tackle.
Most executors are named in the will left behind by the deceased individual and are aware of their upcoming responsibilities. But what happens when there is no will, or when the will fails to appoint an executor or names an executor who is also deceased?
In those cases, you can petition the court to become executor of your loved one’s estate, assuming you can meet certain requirements put forth by the state. For example, some states require an executor to be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind, must never have been convicted of a felony, reside in the same state of the deceased, etc. Many state probate court websites will explain the procedure for becoming an executor and provide the necessary forms and instructions.
If and when the court grants your petition to serve as executor for the deceased individual, it will then issue to you the appropriate documents officially naming you the executor of the will.
A much easier way to assure your executor duties would be to have a discussion with your friend or relative while they are still of sound mind and health, so that the appointment can be documented in the individual’s will. This will save much time and effort down the road.
Once you have become executor and take on that role following the loss of your friend or loved one, there’s no shame if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the process. If that’s the case, you may want to consult with an experienced estate attorney who can assist and guide you through the entire process.
The role of the executor is vital and it should never be taken lightly. Think of it as the ultimate and final favor for someone who placed your trust second to none.
The road to successfully fulfilling the role of executor is often filled with potholes. Still, the law establishes clear procedures and time frames that must be met with respect to assets and liabilities left behind by the deceased individual. Following are some tips to help guide you through this difficult process.
- In addition to handling funeral arrangements, the executor will need to pull together documents such as tax returns, leases, property tax bills, deeds that have conveyed real property, title searches, surveys and more. Securing these documents should be very high on your list of priorities.
- Also high on the priority list is notifying important parties of the death of the individual. This would include attorneys, insurance companies, the Veterans’ Administration (if applicable), etc. The process is simplified if an apartment rental or single family home is the only real estate investment left behind by the deceased.
- In New York State, the executor is charged with submitting a full inventory of assets to the county’s surrogate court within six months of being appointed executor. It is also necessary to secure those assets, so it’s wise to change locks, install light timers and call the local police station to let them know the house is now vacant. Consider installing an alarm system if there is personal property of significant value. Take photographs of the interior and any valuable items.
- In colder environments, remember to weatherproof the property to avoid incidents such as burst pipes.
For some, fulfilling the role of executor will still be among life’s most difficult tasks. A trustworthy estate attorney that you are comfortable working with can make the process much easier and is certainly an avenue to consider.
Last week we talked a bit about the role of the executor, specifically in regards to securing the assets of the estate. Today we’ll stay on topic but switch our focus to managing and selling the home.
As you begin to go through the home, you’re likely to find a lot of paperwork left behind by your deceased loved one. Begin the sorting process by placing those papers into boxes marked financial, personal, photos, etc. One of the key things to look for is the Abstract of Title, which shows all prior ownership interests in the property. It can be expensive to replace this document if it cannot be found.
Also, recovering any house-related paperwork titled “satisfaction of mortgage,” “deed” or “survey” will also save substantial effort down the road.
As for property and casualty insurance, it’s important for you to speak to a knowledgeable insurance professional regarding maintaining appropriate coverage on the now unoccupied property.
Personal belongings should be dispersed to family members as soon as possible. The executor should notify everyone that there is a firm deadline to remove any sought-after items before the remaining items are either sold or donated.
Finally, resist the urge to dispose of items. If an estate sale is planned, many estate liquidators include complete clean out as part of their services.
The role of the executor is an important one. An executor is responsible for paying final debts, distributing the remaining assets to family members, making decisions to achieve these goals on behalf of the deceased and, in many cases, selling real estate and its contents.
With all those responsibilities, you might think it’s wise to appoint two executors and divide up the work equally. In most cases, you would be wrong.
Typically, experienced real estate agents would never recommend appointing more than one executor for a variety of reasons. Decisions can be easily short-circuited when two executors must agree on everything. Placing your trust in one person simplifies the process and makes it easier for all of the beneficiaries. It’s also important to remember that when real estate is involved in the liquidation process, every executor needs to sign off on all necessary paperwork. This can lead to time delays, especially when executors are in different geographic locations.
If close family members are involved, consider appointing one as executor and the other as a “back up.” This might go a long way to making a family member feel more included in the process.
Whatever your final wishes, do not neglect filing a will. Your loved ones will thank you for it!
It happens to thousands of people across the country every year — reaching the point where you have to help an older friend or family member downsize and move. Fortunately, there are trained professionals who can help us through these difficult life situations.
These professionals are known as geriatric care managers, individuals with a professional background in social work, nursing, gerontology or a related field who specialize in serving the needs of our senior population. Their assistance can be a godsend for seniors and caregivers alike who may find themselves faced with an overwhelming task.
A geriatric care manager will first assess the needs of their client, including the housing situation and level of care required. In the long run, a geriatric care manager may help you save money by avoiding costly mistakes, make better decisions because they’ve gone through this many times, help navigate a complex system, advocate for a loved one in a facility and help find additional caregiver support.
The Olear Team has extensive experience dealing with older homeowners and can also provide a variety of services to help lessen your workload. Please contact the team today for more information.