Being the Executor of an Estate is not a task to take lightly. An Executor is the person responsible for managing the administration of a deceased individual’s Estate. Although the time and effort will vary with the size of the Estate, even if you are the Executor of a small Estate you will have important duties that must be performed correctly or you may be liable to the Estate or the beneficiaries.
The Executor is either named in the Will or if there is no Will, appointed by the Court. You do not have to accept the position of Executor even if you are named in the Will. The average Estate Administration takes one (1) year, though you will not need to work full time on it. Following are some of the duties you may have to perform as an Executor:
If there is a Will, you have to locate the original Will.
Hire an Attorney
You are not required to hire an attorney, but mistakes can cost you money. You may be personally liable if something goes wrong with the estate or the payment of taxes. An attorney can help you make sure all of the proper steps are taken and deadlines are met.
Apply for Probate
If there is a Will, then the original Last Will and Testament must be Probated at the local Surrogate’s office. If there is no Will, you will receive Letters of Administration. This will officially begin your work as the Executor.
Notify Interested Parties
Notify the beneficiaries of the Will, if there is a Will, as well as any potential heirs (such as children, siblings, or parents who may or may not be named in a Will).
Manage the Deceased’s Property
You will need to prepare a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, and you may need to collect any property in the hands of other people. One of the Executor’s jobs is to protect the property from loss, so you will need to assure the property is kept safe. You will also need to hire an appraiser to find out how much any property is worth. In addition, if the estate includes a business, you may have to make sure the business continues to run.
Pay Valid Claims by Creditors
Once the creditors are determined, you will need to pay the deceased’s debts from the Estate’s funds. The Executor is not personally liable for the deceased’s debts. The Estate usually pays any reasonable funeral expenses first. Other debts include probate and administration fees and taxes as well as any valid claims filed by creditors.
File Tax Returns
You need to make sure that tax forms are filed within the time frame set under the law. Taxes will include Federal and State Estate Taxes, Inheritance Taxes and Income Tax.
Distribute the Assets to the Beneficiaries
Once the creditors’ claims are clear, the Executor is responsible for making sure the Beneficiaries get what they are entitled to under the Will or under the law if there is no Will. You may be required to sell property in order to fulfill legacies in a Will. In addition, you may have to set up any Trusts required by the Will.
Keep Accurate Records
It is very important to keep accurate records of everything you do. You will need to create a final accounting, which the beneficiaries should review before the distribution of an Estate can be finalized. The accounting should include any distributions and expenses as well as any income earned by the Estate since the deceased died.
Have Beneficiary sign Release and Refunding Bonds
Once the formal or informal accounting is submitted to the beneficiaries, they should be asked to sign a Release and Refunding Bond. This releases you as an Executor from any potential lawsuit brought by the beneficiary and also states that the beneficiary will refund the Estate if unknown creditors arise in the future.
All of the above can be a lot of work. Our firm is happy to assist any Executor in handling the above-mentioned steps. If you would like to schedule a consultation, Contact us today or please give us a call at (856) 489-8388.