Being named as an executor of someone’s last will brings with it a list of challenges. The responsibility is huge, particularly during a time that is most likely emotional. Since this is a sensitive and sometimes complicated affair, it is best that a deeper understanding of how to properly execute a will is sought out.
Because many steps involve delivering legal documents, it is also best that the services of a professional process server are employed. More on this below.
The following are a few key reminders when it comes to executing someone’s will.
Definition of Terms
There are several terms in the process of executing a will that may be confusing for many people. Here are the definitions of a few of them.
- Will – the last and legal declaration of a person’s wish to distribute their assets after death
- Testator – the person who made the will
- Probate – the court process where the will is proven to be the last and true testament of the deceased
- Estate – the money, properties, and assets owned by a person, particularly at death
- Executor – the person assigned by the deceased to carry out the contents of the will
- Beneficiary – a person who is set to receive inheritance based on the will
Reviewing the Will
A person who has been named executor of the will has also most likely already been given a copy or at least has been notified where and how to get one. Once the executor has the will, it would be best to have it reviewed. A good strategy is also to make a comprehensive list of all the assets and properties of the testator, along with the beneficiaries for each of them.
If the executor of the will does not know how to get ahold of a copy, going through the decedent’s personal effects or talking to their lawyer may be the best way forward.
Filing the Will with the Local Probate Court
Once the will is in the hands of the executor, the next step is to file it with the local probate or surrogate court where the testator lived. Along with the will, the death certificate and a list of the properties and assets must also be included in the filing. In many cases, the executor, especially if they are a family member, will opt to hire process servers to do the filing instead because they are engaged in other matters like the testator’s wake.
Serving the Heirs and Beneficiaries
Once the surrogate court validates the will, the executor can then notify the heirs and the beneficiaries that the executor has filed for the authority to carry out the will. This can also be carried out professionally by process servers to make sure the documents are delivered and delivered properly to the right recipients. Notifying the distributees is a requirement by the court.
The heirs and beneficiaries can take this time to challenge the executor’s right. Alternatively, the court can also decide to revoke the executorship if the person is deemed unfit to carry out the will.
Distributing the Estate
What remains after that involves the actual distribution of assets and properties in a systematic and legal way. Executors may also be entitled to a fee for conducting the execution of the will according to New York state legislation.