What are some essential documents for an executor?

An older relative may have asked you to serve as the executor for your relative’s estate. Now that your relative has died, the time has come to assume the duties of executor, which include overseeing the estate and dispersing its assets to heirs. To minimize the chances of complications and delays, you should have certain documents on hand to assist you.

If you are new to administering an estate, you might not be familiar with the kinds of documents you need. Kiplinger explains what executors should have when it comes time to administer an estate.

The will

Naturally, your relative’s last will and testament is a critical document. Not only does it provide the legal authority for you to gather and disperse your relative’s property, but it also notifies other family members of your relative’s intentions. As executor, you will have the responsibility of letting your family members or any other heirs know that they are heirs and what they shall receive.

The death certificate

Part of your duty as executor is to take control of the assets of your deceased relative until you can distribute them. But you will need to prove to banks and other account holders that your relative has died and that you have the power to close and transfer the accounts of the decedent.

This is where the death certificate comes in. You need this document to prove the death of your relative. To that end, you should ask for more than one copy since you may expect to deal with multiple institutions that will want to see a copy of the certificate.

Letters of direction

Not every person writes a letter of direction, but if you know your deceased relative has made one or more of these letters, gathering them may be of great benefit. A letter of direction is not the same as a will, but it can provide important guidance in how to disperse estate assets, especially those not listed in the will.

A letter may also clarify why your relative made the will as he or she had intended. In some families an elder relative fails to communicate his or her intentions to the younger generation. This can cause conflict between children if one or more feel they did not receive an asset they wanted. Reading a letter that explains the reasons behind the inheritance may ease tensions.