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Executor duties series: Maintenance and protection of assets

The duties of an executor of a will span far and wide. Most individuals who agree to carry out these tasks when the time comes have no idea what all will be required of them. Accordingly, we are going to break it down for you step-by-step in our new series, Executor Duties.

Upon the death of a decedent, step one of an executor is to immediately locate and secure all assets. This includes real property such as houses, vehicles, boats and campers. Find and secure keys to all of them. It will be the job of the executor to make sure all of these assets are maintained in good repair and kept in a protected location to prevent theft. If assets go missing during the probate process and an executor is unable to account for them, he or she may be held personally liable.

Regarding real estate, the executor must preserve the property by continuing to pay necessary utilities, insurance and have repairs performed as needed. The probate process can take months or even years. The duty of an executor is to keep the assets that will be disbursed at the end of that process as close in condition as possible to the day of the decedent's death. For example, he or she cannot simply allow a vacant house to deteriorate and lose value, thereby causing it to be sold at a lower price and decreasing the final disbursements to creditors or heirs. In protecting the assets of a decedent, the executor is also protecting the inheritance of heirs and beneficiaries, himself included.

As you will see throughout this series, executor duties are complex and not for everyone. They can be very time consuming and should be delegated to an individual who is capable of managing both money and physical assets. There comes a time in just about any probate process when an executor needs legal advice. An attorney with estate administration experience is a great asset to allow smooth sailing throughout.

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