Estate Executor: Duties and Obligations

Estate ExecutorAn executor is the person responsible for managing the administration of a deceased individual's estate. Obligations can vary from state to state and the size of the estate can determine the responsibilities that will be needed.

The executor is either named in the will and if no will is left, the courts can name an executor.

The time necessary to complete an estate will be determined by the size of the estate and the location of the assets left in the state. An executor may be required to perform some or all of the duties listed below. :

Locate documents:

The determination of a will and the delivery of it to the courts will be necessary. If a copy exists, the attorney who drew the will may have the original. The original should be delivered to the court. A certified copy of the death certificate is also required.

Tax returns:

The executor must file the final tax return for the deceased. Taxes may include estate taxes and income taxes.

Probate:

If there is a will, the court will grant you letters testamentary. If there is no will, you will receive letters of administration. The court will instruct you as the executor when to begin complying with the probate..

Notice to interested parties:

Notify the beneficiaries of the will as well as any potential heirs. In addition a notice for potential creditors in a newspaper near where the deceased lived should be placed.

Payment of claims by creditors:

Once the creditors are identified, debts will need to be paid from the estate's funds. Debts can include funeral expenses, probate and administration fees and taxes as well as any valid claims filed by creditors.

Distribution:

Once the creditors' claims are clear, the executor is responsible for making sure the beneficiaries receive the assets named in the will.

Legal counsel:

Although it is not a requirement, hiring an attorney can help reduce time and exposure to liability. In many states the executor can be held legally responsible for the value of the assets held in the estate. Many attorneys specialize in this area and locating a competent one is fairly easy.

Record keeping:

It is very important to keep accurate records of everything you do. A final accounting to the court and the beneficiary must be completed before the 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.

Court accounting:

Once the final accounting is approved by the beneficiaries and the court, the court will close the estate.

Management:

As executor, you will need to prepare a list of the deceased's assets and liabilities. One of the executor's jobs is to protect the property from loss and to insure the assets are kept safe. An appraiser may be needed to provide a value of a specific asset. If a business is part of the assets, it will need to also be managed.

The executor is allowed compensation for performing these duties.

As with all important decisions make certain you fully understand all aspects of your decision and it is always suggested you seek competent legal and tax advice before making any important decision.