If you've been named the executor of a parent's estate, you may find it challenging to keep the estate's bills paid while you're still sorting out the available assets and debts. This can be even more difficult if your family member's estate is illiquid—consisting of real estate, jewelry, or other items that aren't always easy to turn into cash. What are your options to help pay for your parent's final expenses (or keep the electricity and water service connected in his or her home) if there is little available cash? Read on to learn more about some ways to leverage your parent's assets.
What are your abilities as executor?
As appointed executor of an estate, you'll be able to take legal title to the estate's assets in order to distribute them and keep all necessary bills up to date while the estate is being probated. You'll need to file a form with the IRS to obtain an employer identification number (EIN) for the estate so that it can be classified as its own separate legal entity for tax purposes. Once you've fully accounted for all assets and debts (often including publishing a notice in the local newspaper to help alert any creditors who may want to come forward), you'll be able to use the estate's assets to pay off its debts and distribute any remaining assets to the surviving heirs. If your parent or relative has fewer assets than debts, you'll use these assets to pay debts in order of priority—and once the funds have been exhausted, the remaining creditors are out of luck.
Being an executor is an important position of fiduciary trust. In some cases, you may even be personally sued by the other heirs if you're considered to have squandered estate assets or your negligence has resulted in significant depreciation. For example, if you fail to pay utility bills on your deceased relative's home and power is cut during the winter, frozen pipes or other plumbing issues could lead to expensive repairs. Failing to pay property taxes or mortgage payments on this home could result in foreclosure. Because you shouldn't commingle your own assets with those of the estate, it can be important for you to use the estate assets to gain some quick cash for routine expenses that must be paid before the estate is fully liquidated.
What should you do if the estate has immediate cash needs?
If the estate has some assets, just not liquid ones, you may want to investigate short-term loans—like pawn loans or personal loans—using these assets as collateral. By providing a pawn shop owner with a piece of valuable jewelry, tools, or musical instruments, you'll be able to get some quick cash to use for bills or other necessary expenses. After the loan term has ended, you'll either repay the funds borrowed (plus interest) or forfeit your collateral to the pawn shop. Because not all pawn loans are available for a term of more than a few weeks, you'll need to develop a plan to pay these funds back before they come due and you lose your collateral. However, this can be a good option for situations in which you need instant cash and don't mind paying some interest.
Depending upon the value of the items you're intending to pawn for short-term cash, you may need to seek permission from heirs before doing so—as a failure on your part to repay the loan or otherwise act in time could risk the loss of estate assets, potentially subjecting you to personal liability. Contact a representative from an establishment like Sol's Jewelry & Loan for further information about collateral loans.