You've just learned that you've been named the executor of a loved one's estate. It's normal to have conflicting feelings and to be filled with questions. Below are answers to the three most common questions that new executors find themselves asking. 

Question: Do I Have to Act as Executor?

No, absolutely not. If you feel that you aren't up to the job, no matter the reason, there are ways to go about handing the reins over to another. First, find out if a backup executor was named. Do you have a co-executor, someone who you would have worked with to settle the estate? If so, ask if they'd like to fully take over.

If a backup or co-executor were not named in the will, the job can informally be passed onto another individual, or you can formally resign and ask the courts for another to be appointed. If you're worried the job will fall into the wrong hands, consult with an estate administration attorney. 

Question: What Will This Job Require of Me? 

The answer to this will depend on many things and can best be answered during a consultation with an estate attorney. 

Simply, you'll be handling the assets of the deceased. Real estate, cash, belongings—all of these things need to be properly sorted and dealt with. It is the job of the executor to pay final taxes, notify collectors and pay off debts, and distribute belongings according to the will. If no will is present, an understanding of probate law will be required to lawfully determine who the heirs are and what they will inherit. 

Question: What Will Determine the Length of This Process? 

Since you will be dealing with the IRS, debt collectors, and the legal system, this process can be fairly lengthy. The exact time varies by state, and there are certain instances that will drag the process out even further. 

If the will is disputed the process can take even longer. To ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible, consult with a probate attorney. They can help you settle the affairs inline with probate laws to be sure there are no hangups. 

When you're dealing with the loss of a loved one, it can come as a great surprise that you've been named executor of their estate. While being chosen is truly an honor, the process can quickly turn into a nightmare. If you've been chosen as an executor, you don't have to do this alone. Consult with an experienced estate administration attorney like Edward G. Foster today.