If a North Carolina resident is named the executor of an estate, that person is responsible for overseeing and protecting an estate’s assets throughout the probate process. While the job may seem overwhelming, it may be possible to do it properly by staying organized. An important step in settling an estate’s affairs is to obtain a death certificate. Typically, multiple copies will be needed, and executors should order more than they think will be needed.

The next step is to locate will or trust documents that the deceased may have created. Ideally, the deceased individual would have mentioned where they were located while alive. Once they are collected, it may be necessary to file letters testamentary to show that an individual has the legal authority to manage the estate. It is also possible that the deceased put assets into a trust, which may mean that probate is not necessary.

It might be a good idea to seek out legal advice prior to taking any action. While an executor may be trying to conclude the process as quickly as possible, making a mistake could expose an individual to personal liability. In the meantime, executors are responsible for paying bills and taxes. If there isn’t enough money to handle all of these obligations, a judge may need to prioritize which payments are made.

By creating an estate plan, it may be possible to protect assets while alive. It may also make it easier to distribute assets according to a person’s wishes after passing on. Engaging in estate or trust planning prior to passing may also make it easier for an executor to settle the estate’s affairs. By putting assets in a trust, it may be possible to avoid probate and make the transfer of property a private matter.