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Tips for executors distributing the assets from an estate

One of the duties of an executor is to distribute the assets of an estate. How complex of a job this turns out to be depends on a number of factors, such as how big the estate is, how many assets there are and how many heirs are supposed to inherit those assets.

Dividing cash, for example, can be easy given proper instruction in a will and the support of state estate laws. Dividing a single house among three heirs is a bit tougher, since you have to deal with selling the home or coming up with an agreement for heirs to share it or buy each other out. Here are a few basic tips for executors who are trying to get the job done right.

First, make sure you understand how state laws impact the act of distributing assets. For example, if someone doesn't own a piece of property named specifically in their will upon their death, that asset is usually considered adeemed, and the heir wouldn't not receive it or anything in it's place. In some cases, though, state law may make other arrangements. Working with an estate planning lawyer can help you ensure you aren't overlooking such details.

Second, it's a good idea to document everything as you handle an estate. This is especially true as you pass on assets. Provide a receipt process and get recipients to sign for everything they receive. This can help you prove what happened later if there is a disagreement.

Finally, always strive to handle estate matters in an aboveboard manner. As an executor, you're in a fiduciary relationship with both the state and the heirs. If you think an action might breach that trust, it's best to consult a lawyer before moving forward.

Source: Dummies, "How to Distribute a Decedent's Assets," accessed March 24, 2017

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