What Is An Executor Of EstateWhat Is An Executor Of Estate

What Are The Roles & Duties Of A Will Executor?

Who Is an Estate Executor and What Are Their Duties?

An executor is the person is named by a person who creates a will (testator) as the individual responsible for fulfilling the provisions and terms contained in the will. Some of the key duties of an executor include locating important documents pertaining to the estate of a testator as informing entities such as Social Security, annuity providers, and of other parties when the creator of the will dies. The will executor also has other legal responsibilities which include:

  • Starting the estate probate process

As an estate executor in Nevada, it will be your duty to open up the estate and begin the will probate process. If you do not have any legal training, you will need to engage the services of a skilled estate lawyer to handle the probate process. The lawyer that you hire will take up duties such as providing notices to parties that have a stake in the deceased’s estate such as creditors, obtaining important documents required in the probate process such as the Certificate of Death and a copy of the original will, handling any will disputes that may arise, and finally closing the estate. Note that fees you are charged by your attorney and your fees as the estate executor will be deducted from the deceased’s estate.

  • Undertaking an inventory of the deceased’s estate

During the execution of a will, all the assets belonging to the deceased must be collected and then inventoried. In some cases, some of the assets belonging to the deceased such as jewelry will also need to be appraised. As an executor, it will be your duty to collect, appraise and inventory all the assets in the deceased’s estate.

  • Ensuring that debtors pay up debts owed to the estate of the deceased

As the executor of an estate, it will be your duty to speak to the former employer of the deceased to find out if there were any unpaid benefits or remuneration owed. You will also have the duty of finding out if there are any debtors who owe money to the deceased’s estate. Any expenses that you incur while pursuing debts owed to the deceased will be charged against the deceased.

  • Paying debts that the estate of the deceased owes to creditors

Once the probate process is initiated and a court determines that the deceased’s will is valid, as the will executor, you can then move ahead and start paying taxes, debts, and other valid claims against the estate. Though the process of clearing debts and claims against the estate can be handled by an executor who does not have any legal training, paying estate taxes can be complicated and it is best that you engage a probate and estate administration lawyer to handle this process.

  • Distributing the assets of the deceased’s estate as per the terms set out in the will and closing the estate

Once an executor has settled all the claims against the deceased’s estate, the next duty that has to be fulfilled is distributing the remaining assets in the estate to the deceased’s beneficiaries as per the terms spelled out in the will. Once the assets have been distributed to beneficiaries, the estate can then be closed and the executor released from carrying out any duties on behalf of the deceased’s estate. Probate usually closes an estate on receiving the following documents:

Copies of invoices showing payments to creditors who were owed by the deceased’s estate

Copies of notices to all interested parties showing the intention to close the estate

Evidence that beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate have received what is due to them

What Is an Executor?

A person designated to manage a deceased person’s last will and testament is known as an executor of an estate. The executor’s primary responsibility is to carry out the instructions for handling the decedent’s affairs and wishes.

If no prior appointment was made, a court or the testator chooses the executor, who creates the will.

How Does An Executor Work?

If there’s a will, an executor is in charge of administering the estate per your wishes. The process would start with an executor ascertaining whether the deceased had outstanding liabilities or debts. The executor will use the assets of the estate to settle any bills if any liabilities or debts are discovered.

The estate can be deemed insolvent if its assets cannot fully pay its debts. If that is the case, the remaining possessions of the estate will probably be divided among creditors to pay off obligations.

The executor may distribute any residual assets to its beneficiaries once all debts have been settled. If you wish to have any control over the distribution of your possessions, you must create a will.

Estate Planning

A comprehensive strategy for deciding how possessions will be handled, protected, and distributed following an individual’s death is estate planning. For an estate plan to be executed appropriately, it must have executors.

When an executor gets appointed, they are responsible for taking care of the estate’s assets as well as paying taxes and other debts. In addition, the executor ensures that all of the assets mentioned in the will can be found and given to the rightful recipient.

What Happens to the Estate If There Is No Executor?

If no executor is being named for an estate, things can get more complicated, but the legal system has a way to handle it. Let’s break down what happens when there’s no executor:

  • Court Involvement: The court may need to step in without an executor. Typically, the court will appoint someone to oversee the estate distribution. This person is often called an “administrator” or “personal representative.”
  • Selection of Administrator: The court will usually select the administrator based on a priority list defined by state law. Typically, it goes to a surviving spouse, adult children, or other close relatives. If these individuals are unavailable or willing to serve, the court might appoint a neutral third party, like an attorney.
  • Inventory and Valuation: The administrator’s first task is to inventory the deceased person’s assets and debts. That includes everything from bank accounts and real estate to personal belongings. They also need to determine the value of these assets.
  • Payment of Debts and Taxes: The administrator is responsible for paying outstanding debts and taxes on the estate’s assets. It includes funeral expenses, outstanding bills, and any estate or inheritance taxes that may be due.
  • Distribution of Assets: Once debts and taxes are settled, the administrator can distribute the remaining assets according to the deceased person’s will or, if there is no will, according to state laws (intestacy laws). Typically, assets go to surviving family members, but the order and distribution can vary depending on the specific laws in your state.
  • Court Oversight: Throughout this process, the court will oversee the administrator’s actions to ensure everything is done correctly and fairly.

It’s important to note that handling an estate without an executor can be more time-consuming and potentially more expensive due to court fees and the involvement of a court-appointed administrator.

If you’re in a situation where you need to navigate this process, it’s a good idea to consult with an estate attorney to guide you through the legal requirements in your jurisdiction.

Disputes With Co-Executors

Parents of many adult children frequently designate each child as a co-executor to avoid appearing biased. However, this arrangement might not be convenient for individuals who are named. Some children may reside out of state or abroad, so managing practical tasks, such as selling a house and securing assets, is challenging. Some are not financially capable of handling creditors, comprehending estate tax issues, or performing an accounting audit to reassure beneficiaries that everything has been done correctly. The quantity of records also increases significantly when there are several executors.

For example, forms that require signatures from each executor must be distributed to each (actual documents are required in certain situations, although scanned copies are acceptable in others).

How To Appoint An Executor?

An estate executor is often named in the will of the deceased. However, this isn’t always the case; the testator, or deceased, occasionally passes away without leaving a will, or their will is deemed void. In those situations, a judge in the probate court will appoint someone, typically a close family member, to fill this position. Although the title will change from executor to administrator or personal representative, the function will remain the same.

You are not required to take up the administrator or executor duties of the estate. Should you decline, the duties will be carried out by an administrator chosen by the probate court judge or an alternate or contingency executor specified in the will. It is a time-consuming and emotionally taxing role, even if compensation is typical.

In the following situations, you might want to assign the executor’s duties:

  • You don’t live close to the deceased
  • Heirs or others who think they are heirs will argue over the estate’s assets.
  • You’re in awful health or too distraught to handle the work.
  • You and the other executor don’t get along, and you’ve been designated co-executor of a will.
  • You’re not detail-oriented
  • You’re too preoccupied with responsibilities like a job or caring for others.

Refusing is a reasonable option. You might also choose to accomplish the task yourself since you have greater faith in your abilities than in others to complete it. If you start a task but cannot complete it, you have two options: hire an expert to help you or assign the task to the person after you are in line.

A court may overrule the estate executor’s choice if the chosen individual isn’t of legal age, has a criminal history, struggles with substance abuse, or suffers from a mental disease. If a beneficiary is not content with the executor selection, the court cannot appoint a new one.

What an Executor Cannot Do?

An executor plays a crucial role in handling someone’s estate after they pass away, but there are certain things they cannot do. Here are some key limitations:

  1. Change the Will: Executors must follow the deceased person’s will. They cannot alter or amend it, as they ensure the deceased’s wishes are carried out faithfully.
  2. Ignore Legal Responsibilities: Executors have a legal duty to act in the estate’s and its beneficiaries’ best interests. They cannot neglect their responsibilities or act against the law.
  3. Make Decisions Outside the Will: Executors are bound by the instructions provided in the will. They cannot make decisions not specified in the document or distribute assets differently from what is stated.
  4. Ignore Debts and Taxes: Executors must settle the deceased’s outstanding debts and taxes on the estate’s assets. They cannot ignore these financial obligations.
  5. Make Investments Without Prudence: Executors must manage the estate’s assets reasonably. They cannot make high-risk investments that could jeopardize the estate’s value.
  6. Distribute Assets Prematurely: Executors must wait until all debts, taxes, and legal obligations are settled before distributing assets to beneficiaries. They cannot rush this process.
  7. Avoid Accountability: Executors must keep accurate records of their actions and financial transactions related to the estate. They must pay attention to this duty and account for their activities.

What Legal Powers Does an Executor Have?

An executor plays a crucial role in handling someone’s affairs after they pass away. This role comes with certain legal powers and responsibilities. Here’s a list of what an executor can do:

  1. Managing Assets: Executors can manage the deceased person’s assets, including property, bank accounts, investments, and personal belongings. They are responsible for protecting and preserving these assets.
  2. Paying Debts: Executors must use the deceased person’s assets to settle outstanding debts, including loans, mortgages, and credit card bills. It is typically done before distributing assets to beneficiaries.
  3. Filing Taxes: Executors are responsible for filing the deceased person’s final income tax return and, if necessary, the estate’s tax return. They ensure that all taxes owed are paid.
  4. Distributing Assets: After debts and taxes are settled, the executor is responsible for distributing the remaining assets (examples are car, house, jewelry, and other possessions) to the beneficiaries, as specified in the will or according to state laws, if there is no will.
  5. Estate Administration: Executors ensure that the deceased person’s wishes are fulfilled as the will outlines. They must act in the estate’s and its beneficiaries’ best interests.

If you are appointed as an executor or are considering selecting one, it’s advisable to seek legal counsel to understand your rights and responsibilities in the given situation fully.

What duties does the executor have?

The duties of an executor differ from state to state, but from a legal perspective, fiduciary responsibility is the most significant aspect of being an executor. An executor may face legal action if they fail to behave consistently in the estate’s best interest.

The following are additional responsibilities as an executor:

  • Filing the will and death certificate. To obtain a copy of the death certificate, the executor must arrange with funeral directors and health examiners; they will probably need to provide documentation proving their legitimacy as the estate’s representative. To start the estate settlement process, the executor must also locate a copy of the decedent’s will and file it with the probate court and the death certificate.
  • Notifying creditors and beneficiaries. If a will exists, the executor must inform creditors and beneficiaries of the deceased person’s disappearance. There is a time restriction within which creditors can claim unpaid obligations against the estate. They lose all legal recourse to obtain money from an estate if they fail to file a claim within the stipulated time frame.
  • Maintenance and appraisal of assets and property. The executor is responsible for locating assets, obtaining property appraisals, and filing an inventory with the court. Executors often hire third parties to appraise property.
  • Handling ongoing expenses. Transferring a deceased person’s assets and property to its new owner can take several months. The executor is responsible for paying the estate’s monthly expenses, which include mortgage payments, utility bills, and other liabilities. An executor can open an estate account through a bank or other financial business to guarantee that these costs are paid on time. The executor deposits money into the estate account if the decedent owes any outstanding debts (such as a final paycheck or a life insurance payout that names the estate as its beneficiary).
  • Paying taxes and outstanding debts. The executor must use estate funds to settle debts if creditors submit claims over the estate or contest the claim. In addition, the executor has to pay any outstanding taxes and file the deceased’s final tax return.
  • Inform government agencies, banks, and others of the decedent’s death. The executor must report the decedent’s death to heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors. You must notify the federal government to cease providing government benefits besides these parties. All mail must be requested to be forwarded to your address by the U.S. Postal Service. You must contact the state’s motor vehicle department to cancel the deceased’s driver’s license. To close any accounts, you must notify the banks, and life insurance companies will require this information to cancel any active policies. In addition to terminating subscriptions and bills, you want to contact the main credit bureaus and request that a death notification be added to the deceased’s credit record. Throughout this process, be ready to present a valid death certificate at all times.
  • Handling beneficiary distribution. The executor is responsible for allocating the estate’s assets to heirs and beneficiaries following the terms of a will and applicable state laws after settling any responsibilities and taxes.
  • Consider consulting a professional. An estate’s administration procedures can be difficult and time-consuming. To ensure a seamless procedure, some executors of estates may consult with an estate planning lawyer, appraiser, tax accountant, or other expert. The executor need not pay out of pocket for any payments made to retain professional services because the estate’s funds can cover them. You can also ask attorneys in your area for estate planning help if you’re covered by legal insurance through your place of work. Services for digital estate planning are also included in certain plans.

Is an executor a similar thing to a trustee?

A trustee isn’t similar to an executor. 

  • Trustees are connected to trusts, while executors are usually connected to wills.
  • Additionally, even if the person who created the trust is still alive, the trustee usually manages the possessions to benefit its beneficiaries and/or the trust creator when assets are placed into a trust. Usually, executors don’t start working until after a person dies. 
  • Generally speaking, people cannot be the executors of their wills, although they occasionally identify as the trust’s trustees.

Who would make the ideal executor for you?

  • You can name an institution, a company, or a close friend to serve as the estate executor. An executor should generally be someone you can trust, such as a family member, a close friend, or even a previous client in law or accounting.
  • Several states have rules that prevent some individuals from serving as executors. For instance, people who are children, convicted felons, or reside in a different state might not be allowed to serve as executors. Before appointing an executor in the will, be sure you are aware of the laws in your state.
  • The executor designated in the will could occasionally be unwilling or unable to carry out their duties. In this case, the court may appoint the executor or choose to take up the role voluntarily with another family member. You can step down from your position as executor if you so desire.

How to Become an Executor of an Estate?

There are two ways you can become an executor of an estate.

You must submit a copy of any will for which you have been appointed executor to the court. You should get formal approval if you fulfill the state requirements to be an executor.

You must submit a Letter of Administration to the probate court in your state if you were not named executor in a will. The court will question the deceased’s relationship with you. Either you or another person will be named executor by the court.

Contact The Giuliani Law Firm for Assistance with Estate Administration

Note that any person who has reached 18 years of age can be appointed as an estate executor as long as they do not have a past felony conviction. In many cases, the will executor is usually a close family member or a friend of the deceased.

Carrying out the duties and responsibilities of an executor can be overwhelming and time-consuming even if the deceased’s estate does not have a lot of assets. Have you been named as the executor of a will? If yes, please contact the The Giuliani Law Firm to speak to an estate administration and probate attorney so that you can better understand your role in the administration of the deceased’s estate.

Call Now