Regardless of whether you have a will, your estate must be administered. The person who is responsible for supervising the administration of your estate is known as the executor. Each state has its own requirements and qualifications for an executor. In most states, minors, convicted felons and non- U.S. citizens are disqualified.
What is an Executor required to do?
There are general duties that nearly every executor is required to perform. However, the full extent of an executor’s duties depends entirely on the type of estate being probated. Here are a few examples of some of the more common duties of an executor:
Applying for probate. The role of an executor officially starts with the application for probate of the estate. The executor obtains letters of testamentary when a will is involved, or letters of administration when there is no will.
Hiring an attorney. Although not required, it is usually a good idea to hire an attorney to assist you throughout the process. Mistakes can be expensive and could possibly lead to personal liability.
Locating documents. An important responsibility of an executor is to obtain necessary documents required for the probate process, such as the death certificate and the will, if there is one. This also includes any legal documents that will take effect upon that individual’s death.
Managing the deceased’s property. Protecting the decedent’s assets from loss is another important duty of the executor. This requires creating a list of assets and liabilities and determining who the valid creditors are.
Paying valid claims by creditors. Usually, probate and administration taxes and fees are paid first, along with funeral expenses. After all of the valid creditors have been notified and found, the debts are paid from the funds of the estate. The executor will never be personally liable for any of the decedent’s debts. Estate taxes and incomes taxes must also be paid.
Notifying other interested parties. Along with determining and paying the valid creditors, the executor is responsible for locating and notifying any beneficiaries named in the will, or any potential heirs of the deceased.
Distributing property to the beneficiaries. Once creditors have been paid, the assets that remain can be distributed to beneficiaries of the will or heirs to the estate. In some situations, the executor will be required to sell property or create trusts, as specified in a will.
Keeping accurate records. The executor will be expected to provide a final accounting. So it is important to keep accurate records of all transactions related to the estate. The beneficiaries review the final account before the distribution of the estate is completed. After the accounting is filed and approved by the court, the estate can be closed.
Serving as an executor is an incredibly important job. It requires a great deal of responsibility and work. As such, most executors are entitled to compensation for their service, which is approved by the probate court, as well. If you have any questions or concerns about your duties as an executor, contact an experienced estate planning attorney.