DEAR JEFF: I agreed to be the independent executor on a will for an elderly friend. He has no real estate, owns no cars, and lives in an apartment. He owns nothing other than personal possessions. He has a paid up life insurance policy worth $15,000, but probably owes doctors, hospitals and credit cards more than the value of the policy. The will is a simple one, just instructing the executor to pay his bills, pay for his funeral, and give anything left over to his children (with whom he does not communicate). However, I doubt there will be any money left over for the children. What are my duties and liabilities as the executor? Signed, “Taking This Seriously”

Dear “Seriously”: Your job as executor is merely to carry out the terms of the will, and your duties do not begin until your friend passes away. A life insurance policy is simply a contract, payable to whoever is listed as the beneficiary. It does not automatically go into a person’s estate. If the life insurance policy lists your friend’s estate as the beneficiary, then you should probate the will and pay the creditors. However, it is likely that the policy lists the children as the beneficiaries. In that case, the money never goes into the estate, and the creditors cannot get to it. If that is the situation, then your friend basically owns nothing but personal items, and there is probably no need to even probate the will. It simply would not be worth the time and money to submit the will to probate. Presumably, the children would divide up the personal belongings on their own.

DEAR JEFF: I want to open an internet business. What do I need to do besides buying a computer, finding a place to operate the business, etc.? I have a DBA certificate, and a sales permit. What is next? Thanks, “Want to do it Right”

Dear “Right”: It sounds like you have covered the basics pretty well. One thing to consider is the potential liability of operating your business. Depending on what the business will be providing, it is very possible that you would benefit from some liability protection. You would need to consult with an attorney to determine whether you would need to create a more formal business entity; such as a Subchapter S corporation, a limited liability company, or some other business form. You will also need the services of a good accountant to make sure your books are kept properly.

Jeffrey Bates is licensed to practice law in the State of Texas, but is not board certified in any area of specialty by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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