Some people in Florida may find themselves in the role of estate executor after a loved one has died. The role carries with it a number of responsibilities, but an executor is allowed to consult professionals including an attorney.

The executor’s role is to put the will through probate, locate and protect assets, pay any of the estate’s debts and distribute assets to beneficiaries. The executor is authorized to act on behalf of the estate but is also liable for mismanaging the estate.

Executors should obtain multiple copies of death certificates since these will be needed to close accounts and inform banks and other organizations of the person’s death. Money from the estate is used to pay funeral and burial costs. To locate the estate’s assets, the executor may need the assistance of the attorney who helped prepare the estate plan, but the executor is not obligated to hire that same attorney to assist with administration. The executor may need to get some property appraised. Depending on the financial situation of the estate, some of that property might need to be sold to pay the debts of the estate.

Distributing assets to beneficiaries is the last step and only happens after all estate debts, including tax, are paid. If nothing is left, the beneficiaries get nothing although they are not obligated to pay the estate’s debts.

Dying without a will is known as dying intestate, and if this happens, the property is distributed according to state law. While some people may think creating a will is not necessary, dealing with an estate without a will can be a long and expensive process, and the result may be relatives getting assets in violation of a person’s wishes. Therefore, even if a person has few assets or only sentimental items, it may be a good idea to draw up a will.