Assuming the role of an estate executor after the death of a loved one is not an easy task. During a time when family and friends are mourning, an estate executor is forced to put his or her own grief aside in order to carry out the final wishes of the deceased. Since the average person witnesses the difficult process of administering an estate only once or twice in a lifetime, it is impossible for a person to fully prepare for the daunting responsibility. Even though no two estates are exactly the same, being aware of advice commonly given to estate executors can help make the responsibility easier to manage.

Prepare to Take Your Time

After a family member or close friend passes away, it is not unusual for this or her beneficiaries to grow anxious about receiving their inheritance. Unfortunately, rushing through the probate process can lead to major mistakes that ultimately slow down the distribution of the estate. An executor should expect to spend several months getting the estate in order prior to distributing inheritances to beneficiaries. Though it is often tempting to rush through the process for the sake of those close to you and for your own peace of mind, estate administration is one thing that must be completed slowly.

Request a Death Certificate

Obtaining a death certificate is something that is absolutely necessary in order to administer an estate. The decedent’s insurance company, bank, and the government will all request a copy of the death certificate. Without the death certificate, it is difficult to move forward with anything, including the funeral. Since the state vital record department needs time to fulfill all requests, it is important to request the certificate as soon as possible. In situations in which you cannot afford to wait weeks or months to receive the death certificate, consider requesting the certificate in person after providing evidence that you are a relative or representative of the estate who is authorized to request personal information pertaining to the deceased.

Settle all Debts

The decedent’s debts must be paid by the estate prior to the heirs receiving any remaining assets.  Contacting the bank, credit card companies, and other creditors of the deceased to notify them of the death starts the process of paying debts, but it may be necessary to obtain a credit report to make sure nothing is overlooked. If applicable, the executor must also pay the state and federal government any taxes that are owed after filing an income tax return on behalf of the decedent.   Keeping detailed records of creditors that have been paid will help you monitor what debts are settled while providing documentation for the beneficiaries so they remain aware of how the assets are being used.

Contact an Attorney for Professional Advice

The duties associated with administering an estate are time-consuming and stressful. We at MMZ LAW understand how overwhelming the task is and we are here to provide you with the assistance that you need. We are available to answer your questions. Contact us today to schedule a confidential appointment at our conveniently located Claremont, California office. We serve 4 counties in Southern California – Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino.



341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of trust and estate, elder law, special needs, conservatorship, trust administration, and probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.