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How to successfully close an estate as its executor

Being the executor of a person's estate is a big job that comes with great responsibility -- making sure the will is carried out according to its terms. Depending on the assets, debts and number of heirs, the probate process can take a long time and become very complicated. For those in Texas tasked with closing an estate, however, there are few ways to help keep the process on track.

First, the executor must present a death certificate as well as the will to a probate judge. At that point, it will be determined what assets need to go through probate and what assets, like accounts with a transfer on death stipulation or specifically named beneficiaries, do not. Once the process is complete, the executor can begin acting on behalf of the deceased individual, including working with the IRS and transferring property like vehicle titles.

Next up is to inventory the assets. An appraiser can help value personal items like collections or furniture, and it's important to remember that cars or homes must be insured until sold.

Once the estate has been inventoried, debts and taxes need to be dealt with. While the executor is not personally responsible for the estate's debts, he or she does need to use the estate's assets to pay medical bills or other debts owed. First, however, it's important to look into any claims of debt owed to ensure their validity. Taxes on behalf of the estate and the deceased individual must also be paid.

The final step is to distribute the assets. If the will gives specific information about who should get what, distribute those assets accordingly. For things not mentioned in the will, they should be divided up evenly among heirs. Assets that are not named in a will can also be sold, but it's often a good idea to talk to family members before doing that.

Last, but certainly not least, once the asset distribution is complete, a judge must close the estate and discharge the executor.

As you can see, estate administration can be a complicated and complex process. When acting as the executor of an estate, it may be beneficial to work with an experienced probate attorney to ensure that there are no loose ends left untied.

Source: Fox Business, "Four Tips for the Executor of an Estate," Andrea Murad, Jan. 11, 2013

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