Let us say your uncle named you as the executor, or personal administrator, of his estate. Uncle Joe passed away unexpectedly, and you are suddenly in charge of winding up his affairs. This is a serious responsibility, and you can be considered liable for any missteps. Here are seven tips to help you succeed.

1. Get copies of the death certificate

As executor, you will be in charge of managing your uncle’s funeral and burial. The funeral home will provide you with copies of the death certificate. You need to give copies to banks and investment houses, Uncle Joe’s life insurance company, the Social Security Administration, if applicable, and other such agencies and organizations. You also include a copy when you file the final tax return.

2. Locate the will

When you locate your uncle’s will, you will be able to determine how complicated your job will be. You must file a copy of the will with the probate court promptly.

3. File the letters testamentary

Letters testamentary are documents that attest to your legal authority to administer your uncle’s estate. The probate court will use these to confirm your appointment.

4. Rely on professionals

Do not feel you have to carry out your responsibilities as executor alone. You should seek advice and assistance seek advice and assistance from professionals, such as an attorney, an accountant and an appraiser.

5. Pay the debts and taxes

You are legally responsible for paying your uncle’s outstanding debts and final taxes. You can be held liable if you fail to do so.

6. Protect assets

As executor, you must protect the assets of the estate until the probate process is over, at which time you can make distributions to heirs according to the instructions in the will.

7. Take your time

Do not let anxious heirs hurry you. The probate process may take from a few months to a couple of years. Meanwhile, with the help of the professionals you approached, you can concentrate on carrying out your duties as executor successfully.