9 Duties of an Estate Executor
Acting as an executor for someone’s estate is not only an honor but a great responsibility. In fact, the average executor will spend more than 570 hours settling an estate. In a very broad sense, executors are responsible for distributing the decedent’s property as well as arranging payment for any of the estate’s debts and expenses.
What Does An Executor Do?
An estate executor is legally responsible for handling the assets of a person who has died. This includes dividing the estate among the decedent’s heirs, paying debts, and ensuring that estate taxes are paid. Laws regarding who can serve as an executor vary from state to state, but in most cases, the executor is a close family member like a spouse, sibling, parent, or child.
1. Submit Copy of Will to Probate Court
The first thing that you will need to do after the individual passes away is acquire a copy of the will. The will is a legal document that stipulates how assets will be distributed and who they will go to. You’ll be responsible for contacting individuals named in the will and ensuring that they receive their portion of the estate. In most cases, you will also need to submit a copy of the will to the local probate court.
2. Notify Government Agencies and Financial Institutions of Death
You’ll have to alert government agencies, including the Social Security Administration, that the individual has passed away. You’ll also have to notify the decedent’s bank and credit card companies. At this time, you can ascertain if the decedent has a safety deposit box with their bank. You will need to keep a record of the box and what it contains until it can be distributed.
3. Decide If Probate Is Necessary
Not all assets require probate. For example, assets held jointly by a husband and wife don’t typically need to go through probate. Your estate administration lawyer can help you determine if anything requires probate and assist with you filing a petition with the court.
4. Submit an Inventory of Assets
If probate is necessary, then you will need to put together a list of all of the deceased’s assets, which is known as “an inventory of assets.” Items included on the list usually cover real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, stocks, life insurance, and retirement plans.
5. Maintain the Property
Any property that the decedent owned will need to be maintained until it can be distributed to heirs or sold. This includes property like homes and land parcels, in addition to assets like vehicles, storage lockers, recreational items such as boats. For example, a home will need to have its landscape taken care of and its maintenance requirements met. The executor should also keep an inventory of the decedent’s personal belongings within the home and ensure that they’re protected until distribution.
6. Pay Off Any Debts and Taxes
Any debts that the decedent owes will have to be settled after their death. These debts include income tax returns for the time period between the first date of the current year to the date of the individual’s death. For larger estates, there may also be federal estate taxes. In addition to taxes, you’ll have to notify creditors of the person’s death in accordance with state law.
7. Represent the Estate in Court
While not always required, you may have to appear in court to represent the estate. Your attorney will let you know if this is necessary and ensure that you’re prepared for the appearance.
8. Distribute Estate’s Assets
You’ll need to oversee the process of distributing the estate’s assets based on what’s outlined in the will. In some cases, the decedent may not have had an opportunity to create a will prior to passing away. In the case of no will, state intestacy laws will go into effect. A lawyer can help you determine which laws apply and how they’ll affect the distribution of the estate.
9. Dispose of Remaining Property
After the distribution of the estate’s assets, there may be some leftover property, such as furniture or other personal items. It will be your responsibility to see that these items are donated or disposed of.
Trusted Estate Planning Litigation Lawyer
Being the executor of an estate can be a challenging undertaking as estates can vary considerably in terms of complexity and size. Depending on the nature of the estate, the executor’s role can go beyond the items listed here. Contact The Knee Law Firm by phone at 201-996-1200 to consult with an experienced lawyer. You can also contact us online.