Assuming the role of an executor is a major responsibility. Your job is to manage the estate of the decedent and carry out his or her wishes. But you may not know much about how to perform your duties, which is completely understandable.

You can narrow down your responsibilities to the following tasks: identifying assets, valuing assets, paying debts and distributing assets. But the details of how you conduct yourself matter too. Here are some guidelines to remember as you administer an estate.

Secure assets quickly

Locating and safeguarding the estate is not something to procrastinate. You should be proactive with tasks such as gathering keys to vehicles and changing the locks on real estate properties. If someone has access to a vehicle or property, it exposes you and the estate to liability.

Talk regularly with the beneficiaries

The last thing you want is for the heirs of the estate to feel left in the dark wondering what is happening. Unclear communication can provide a lot of fodder for uncertainty and disputes. This can lead to will contests and other estate litigation. Beneficiaries are often impatient and suspicious. You can dampen these concerns through frequent, consistent and honest communication.

However, you should not let heirs intimidate or bully you during the process. You must be able to hold your ground and remind everyone that it is not a democratic process – ultimately, you are in charge.

Document everything

There is always a risk of an heir filing a dispute. This can cause complications and delays. One of the best things you can do to protect yourself and the estate in this situation is by maintaining good records. Strong documentation of all of your choices will help you defend against any accusations of misconduct.

Serving as an executor can be stressful, but if you are organized and methodical, you can fulfill your duties in an honorable way.