When you agreed to become the executor of your uncle’s estate, you thought it was a responsibility that would not happen for years.

However, he passed away unexpectedly, and you are now his executor. Avoid costly mistakes in carrying out your duties.

Understand your duties

As executor, you will carry out your uncle’s wishes as expressed in his will. You may start by filing the will with the probate court. When the court makes your appointment official, you will pay debts, prepare and file the final tax returns and protect the assets of the estate. When the probate process is over, you will distribute the assets according to the will. There are many rules and it is important to follow any instructions the court gives you.

Take your time

Do not rush through the tasks ahead. If you move too quickly, you might miss a crucial step. Take notes, make a to-do list and carry out your duties one step at a time in an organized fashion. The process of administering the estate usually takes between nine and 12 months.

Stay in touch

It is important to communicate with the beneficiaries of the will at regular intervals. They are likely to have questions and want to know where you are in the administration process and how much longer it will take. Keeping heirs well-informed helps prevent misunderstandings that could make your job more difficult.

Avoid legal liability

Your uncle probably chose you as his executor because you are trustworthy and have a good business background, which is helpful in view of the paperwork involved. You also have common sense and will know when to ask for help from professionals. You may need to consult an accountant and perhaps a business or real estate appraiser. You can add these experts to the legal team you rely on to ensure you do not make any legal missteps as you proceed with your work.