When you are called upon to serve as an executor, you are taking on some very challenging responsibilities. Although your first reaction may be that you are taking on more than you can handle, there may be some instructions provided in the person's will that will help you plan for the funeral. The executor not only honors the wishes of the family, but ensures all the funeral bills are paid.
The first thing to understand is that a modern funeral is not cheap. An average funeral for an adult can run from $7,000 to around $9,000 as of the time of publication. However, don't get discouraged, some people will have insurance to cover the funeral, and all you will have to do is sign the check. If there is no insurance, it will be your job to find the money within the estate to pay the funeral bills,a s long as they are reasonable. All the extras that people want add up and can quickly exceed the estate's financial resources.
The fiduciary responsibilities an executor takes on are the most serious part of doing the job. Executors are responsible for safeguarding the assets of the estate and ensuring the interests of the beneficiaries are protected. Federal and state laws establish an order of priorities for paying the decedent's bills, but you may need to consult legal counsel to make sure you know which bills need to be paid first.
The decedent may leave the executor instructions for things such as organ donations, and the type of funeral desired. After looking at any instructions left for the funeral, you should immediately consult with surviving family members to see if they have any desires that can be included in the funeral without breaking the bank. Family members may be able to find life insurance policies that will help pay for funeral expenses. Since you are responsible for the funeral bill, you have to be strong enough not to allow funeral plans to exceed the estate's resources.
The first thing that may happen after the decedent's death is that bank accounts will be frozen until you can prove your legal authority as executor of the estate. When you are able to present a certified death certificate to the decedent's bank, sufficient funds may be released to pay reasonable funeral expenses. Although you are responsible for the estate's financial resources, you should do your best to honor the family's wishes for the funeral. Just remember, executors may be held financially responsible if too much is spent on the funeral.
Kenneth Oster's leadership experience includes an Air Force career, pastoral leadership, and business ownership in the automotive repair industry. He has a MBA from Western Governors University, and is working toward a DBA degree from Northcentral University. Oster authored the book, "The Complete Guide to Preserving Meat, Fish and Game: Step-by-Step Instructions to Freezing, Canning, Curing and Smoking."