Q: My loved one passed away and someone needs to clean out her home, who is in charge of that?
A: Losing someone you care for is incredibly difficult. Going through their belongings can be one of the most difficult tasks to be accomplished after their death. Assuming this individual lived alone and rented the home or is the sole owner, this job officially belongs to a court-appointed executor or administrator. The difference between the two designations is that the executor is a person who was nominated in the deceased person’s last will and testament while the administrator is named by the court based on an order of priority in cases where there is no last will and testament.
The responsibilities of an executor are set forth by the last will and testament. However, in most cases, usually appointed in cases where there is no last will and testament, they will have the rights as set forth by the statute.
Once the court appoints someone to represent the estate, it is that person’s job to collect the assets of the deceased person. Estate property will be protected and preserved by the appointed person until such time as the estate is ready to be distributed to the rightful beneficiaries. This will include cleaning out the home and, especially in the case of a home that the deceased person owned, making sure it is maintained until such time it can be turned over to the beneficiaries or sold.
If there was a last will and testament and that document gives certain items to certain persons, those items should be held aside for that purpose. If the document does not state who receives the tangible personal property, it should be distributed as part of the residuary estate. That may mean that some of the items be sold and the proceeds be distributed.
The home often contains financial records and other important papers. The birth certificate, social security card, marriage license, and divorce decree should be kept indefinitely. It is recommended that income tax returns, bank statements and other financial records be kept for seven years, either in hard copy or electronically.
Executors and administrators are tasked with this responsibility of sorting through and cleaning out the residence. It can be an emotional and arduous task. Knowing the rules associated can lighten the burden. Nominated executors and those looking to become administrator should contact their attorney to ensure they are in properly handling the estate.
- Britt Burner, Esq. and Nancy Burner, Esq.