When we lose a loved one, we often find ourselves in a state of confusion on what comes next. Generally, your loved one will have assigned a personal representative or executor in some states. If you find yourself in the position of a personal representative of someone’s estate here are some of the biggest do’s and don’ts’s that you should be aware of before you start your personal representative process.

DO seek professional advice! Being a personal representative is something that people, usually, do not have much experience or knowledge about. So, when the moment comes for you to start making decisions as a personal representative you may be confused. It is important to know that you can seek legal advice to help make the process easier for you as well as anybody else involved such as the beneficiaries. Seeking legal advice can help you avoid mistakes when distributing assets, dealing with tax information, any accounts, property, etc.

DO make sure you pay any taxes or bills left behind by the deceased. As their personal representative you are now in charge of any debt left behind. In some cases, the deceased person will leave behind an explanation and summary of any bills or debt that need to be paid. In other cases, the deceased may not leave any such letter and it is up to you as personal representative to find out.

DO have patience and realize that this is not a quick week long process. In some cases, the process may be completed in just a couple months. This is usually in the case of a very simple probate. In other cases where there are more assets to disburse, more debt to be paid, and information missing it might take up to a year or more. So do have patience as this process is usually lengthy.

DON’T do any of the following that may get you removed or in trouble as a personal representative:

DON’T use the funds from the estate for your benefit or personal gain. This is one of the easiest ways to get yourself into trouble as a personal representative. The easiest way to avoid this situation is to make sure you keep your funds and the funds from the estate in separate banks and locations at all times.

DON’T distribute assets without paying off debts or claims against the estate. Distributing assets to the beneficiaries is one of the last steps in this process. It is done this way so that any business that needs to be taken care of using funds from the estate can be done so before the beneficiaries receive their assets and spend/use them. Taking care of debts, claims, taxes and more before you distribute the assets will ensure that everything is paid for and there is nothing missing.

DON’T take ownership of any of the assets without first going through the right paperwork and transferring the property into your name. For example, driving the deceased car when it is still in their name may get you into trouble.