Are you an executor of a loved one's estate? Then you have many responsibilities, such as handling the arrangements for the headstone. Here are five key things to know about headstones and your role as the executor.

1. The Estate Usually Pays

First, who pays for the headstone? Generally, the person's estate pays for this along with other funeral expenses. Generally, reasonable funeral or memorial expenses are paid before the estate is distributed among heirs. So the executor has room to make decisions about these arrangements but should keep in mind that they will be responsible to the heirs and probate court for expenses incurred. 

2. It's Okay for Family to Pay

The estate may generally pay for headstones, but this isn't the only choice. Sometimes, the person's family or friends prefer to make their own memorial arrangements — particularly if the estate isn't large enough to pay for a headstone that the family wants. This is perfectly acceptable and may even make your job easier. You may also agree on behalf of the estate to share costs with family or friends. 

3. Family Decides on Decoration

While the estate executor may write the checks for things like headstones and their engravings or embellishments, this person usually doesn't choose what will be on the stone itself. This is traditionally left up to the family within reason. If the estate isn't large, come up with a price range that the estate can afford and let the family choose decorations within those parameters. 

4. The Deceased's Wishes Are Paramount

Before you or family members make any decisions, be sure to check the will or other estate documents. Many people include directions about their final arrangements, and the executor is obligated to adhere to the deceased's wishes first. If the will is unclear about which items are mandatory and what decisions may be left to the family or the executor, consult with an estate attorney. 

5. The Cemetery Should Be Consulted

Don't forget to talk to the cemetery before any commitments are made on headstones. Each cemetery has its own set of rules about what decorations or additions are allowed. Cemeteries can also offer recommendations to inexperienced executors. It may be a breach of your fiduciary duty to waste estate funds on custom items the cemetery won't allow, so know first what the cemetery allows.

Want to know more about choosing and paying for a headstone as an executor? Start by consulting with a headstone provider in your area, such as Memorial  Art Monument. They will work with you to ensure that your loved one's final wishes are met and the family receives a memorial they will treasure for years.