Understanding the Role and Responsibilities of an Executor
When an individual becomes an executor of an estate, a multitude of duties essential to the completion of probate and the ultimate distribution of the estate accompany the title. To a newly appointed executor new to the probate process, they may be unaware of the breadth of their duties, and when they are made aware, the sudden weight of responsibilities can seem overwhelming. Thus, refer to the list below regarding a list of duties to be performed by the executor and a brief explanation of each.
To begin our list, it is the executor’s duty to inventory the assets of the estate. To provide the court an accurate valuation of the estate to allow a fair distribution to heirs, the executor must inventory the estate to the best of their ability. That includes listing all real property, stocks and other investments, bank accounts, jewelry and other expensive personal property, and vehicles, among other assets. Sometimes, an appraisal of real property and other assets whose value is undetermined may be necessary.
Next, an executor must manage the assets of the estate. While a probate case is pending, payments and upkeep of the estate are still ongoing. This means that an executor is responsible for monitoring investments and income and maintaining or purchasing insurance. Managing the assets falls under one of the primary purposes of the executor to safeguard and preserve the estate.
Along those same lines, an executor is also responsible for collecting debts that are owed to the estate. The executor is obligated to make ‘diligent efforts’ to collect all pending monies owed to the Decedent’s estate. If the debtor is a family member, one might opt to adopt a more diplomatic approach when collecting the debt in question.
Another financial-based duty of the executor is to raise cash for the estate. To pay the expenses of the estate, such as taxes, the executor will need to determine what assets of the estate he can sell and when to sell them to meet the estate’s needs. If there are investments in the estate, this might be a prime opportunity to utilize those to their fullest extent.
Next, an executor must pay taxes of the estate and keep them current to better preserve the estate. Federal Estate taxes are only due on estates larger than $11.4 million so not many have to worry about those. It would be wise to check for potentially lower thresholds in the state in which the estate resides however. Additionally, the executor will need to file the Decedent’s final income tax return and fiduciary income tax returns for the estate.
One of the more pleasant duties allotted to executors is that of making distributions to the heirs of the estate. In this way, one simply follows the admitted estate planning documents, in the form of a will or trust, or the order of the Court in cases of intestacy, used to describe a probate matter in which no will is found.
Finally, the executor is responsible for providing an accounting of the estate. In this way, an executor informs the court of the money and property that has been received and disbursed, a task made easier if a full and correct accounting is kept from the beginning of the probate.
Let Our Legal Team Assist You!
While the duties of an executor can be intimidating, it helps to have an experienced legal team to guide you through the process and assist you from the filing of the initial Petition to the Final Accounting and discharge of the executor when all duties are complete. Our legal team is very experienced in probate matters and understands the challenges executors encounter. Let our legal team assist you during this difficult time!