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The Important Role of the Executor

As the executor to an estate, you are responsible for handling all of the remaining details that pertain to your loved one’s life. We have helped many executors, administrators and trustees through the process of selling the decedent’s home, and we would like to help you understand the specific tasks involved and how to best handle them.


  • Where and when to begin.Understand that the process does not have to begin immediately following the death of your loved one. You should give yourself time to mourn.  However, it is a good idea to be in contact with a probate attorney within the first month after your loved one’s death.
  • Begin with the will.Get a copy of the will if one exists.  If there happens to be a living trust, typically the probate attorney who drafted it will have a copy of these documents. Your loved one may also have kept them somewhere such as a safety deposit box.
  • What to do if there is not a will.If there is no trust or will then your next step is to find a probate attorney. We suggest looking for an attorney with experience in estate planning and the probate field. Without a will, your job of executor will be overseen by the probate court system, which is a longer and more cumbersome process. Thankfully there are professionals in the area who specialize in probate! This is why it is important to take the time to find the right attorney for you. Know that when you make connections with professionals in the probate field, they can help refer you to others who will guide you through this process and make it much easier in the long run.  
  • Determine who are the beneficiaries or heirs. If there is not a will you need to refer to law to determine who is a beneficiary.  Your probate attorney will be able to help you through this process.
  • File the will.You must file the will with the probate courts.   Once again, a probate attorney will help you through this process and guide you in these legal affairs.
  • Handle the daily tasks.You are responsible for handling the daily details, including terminating leases and credit cards. You will need to notify government agencies of your loved one’s passing, such as the Social Security Administration, the post office, Medicare, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, if applicable.
  • Pay continued bills.There may be some continued bills including the utilities, mortgage payments, taxes, homeowner association dues and homeowner’s insurance. These expenses will be your responsibility to pay using available estate funds. It may be necessary to create a bank account for the estate to have a way of handling continued movement of currency. A separate account will prevent you from using your own capital for the expenses of the estate and also keep the inheritance separate from your personal currency.
  • Distribute property.If there is a will, the property will need to be distributed according to the decedent’s request.  If no will is present, it is recommended you distribute property equally by monetary value.  However, you may wish to ask the living heirs if there are any items they wish to receive. Giving the heirs the opportunity to request certain items may ease the stress of this process.
  • Sell or donate remaining property.Once you have distributed the mementos, you will want to sell any remaining items of value.  Anything that is of too little value for sale can be donated to a local charity. Charities will often give you a form that allows you to use these items as a write off for the decedent’s final taxes.
  • Sell the house.The final sale will be of the home owned by the decedent. We suggest a professional real estate agent with experience in probate and trust sales, like me, who can guide you through the process with ease.


Remember one good professional can introduce you to another, so call me. I’m Charlotte Volsch at the Volsch Team, 760-912-8905. I can introduce you to professionals who can help you in this final act of service to your loved one.