Being an executor is a big responsibility. One that requires great integrity and diligence. Many people will only experience this role once or twice in their life, and it can be a bit daunting.

Here are 7 things for you to consider prior to the funeral:

1. What were the burial wishes? Were they written down anywhere, such as a pre-planned arrangement with the funeral home, in a Disposition of Remains document, in an estate planning binder or with an attorney? If there are no written instructions, then what does the family want? Or does anyone remember what the loved one said they wanted?

2. Who is in charge of the burial? Who has authority to make burial decisions? That authority could come from the healthcare power of attorney, disposition of remains form or the Will itself. Do you know if any family member is going to object over the burial wishes? How will the burial be paid for, if it hasn’t already been pre-paid at the funeral home? The funeral home will want assurances that funds are there (or will soon be there from life insurance, etc.) to pay the bill.

3. Secure personal property. Make sure all personal property in the house or elsewhere is secure. Things have a way of walking off and once they’re gone, you may not even know what all was there to begin with. You may want to consider changing the locks on the house if you are concerned about family members taking “souvenirs.”

4. Secure real estate. Make sure any real estate is locked up and safe. If it’s winter, will the pipes freeze?

5. Pets. Are there any pets at the home that need to be cared for? Don’t forget to feed Kitty!

6. Secure the Will and other important documents. Take the original Will to be filed at the courthouse (Circuit Clerk) or ask your attorney to file it for you. Secure any other important papers, even if you don’t have time to go through them now — particularly if a lot of people will be in and out of the house. You don’t want to risk something being moved or misplaced.

7. Request plenty of death certificates. You will need death certificates later to make life insurance claims and to carry out other duties. Tell the funeral home you want 15 original death certificates. You want to have plenty in case some institutions want to keep an original for their file. However, don’t be in a hurry to fill out financial forms for life insurance, annuities, IRA’s, etc. There is plenty of time for that after the funeral. You don’t want to move too quickly and then realize later your quick actions have resulted in extra taxes or other consequences that can’t be undone.

If you are the executor of an estate and aren’t sure about your role, we’re here to help! While this may be your first time, we work with families everyday. We’re familiar with the process, organized and can help you avoid costly mistakes. Call us at 217-726-9200 today to schedule an appointment or speak with our Client Coordinator.

Read about what to do after the funeral here.