Executor of A Will? What You Need to Know

Being appointed as an Executor of a will is no easy task. Executorship of a Will comes with responsibilities and duties. First, being chosen as an executor should be considered dually as an honor and an obligation. Before acceptance, you should understand what being an Executor entails. In general terms, you’ll be distributing the decedent’s assets and organizing the payments of estate debts and expenses. A decedent is someone who has died. The decedent’s estate is all of the property owned by the person who died at the time of his or her death. A Will can appoint more than one Executor.

Duties and Responsibilities of an Executor

The Executor is legally responsible for organizing the finances of the person who died. The Executor also sees to the payments of debts and taxes. Whatever remains after is appropriately distributed to the heirs. Naturally, executors are inclined to be spouses, children, parents, and siblings. Executors are expected to be trustworthy, responsible, organized, and diligent. Also, duties must be carried out in a diligent, fair, and honest manner. An executor may also be required to perform any or all of the following:

1. Secure a Copy of the Will and File It with the Probate Court
The Executor is responsible for locating, reading, and understanding the Will. Even if probate isn’t required, the Will still must be filed with the probate court. At this stage, the Executor also determines who inherits the property.

2. Inform Banks, Credit Card Companies, and Government Agencies of the Decedent’s Death
Institutions such as the Social Security Administration, the decedent’s bank, and credit card companies are examples of who should be notified of the death.

3. Determine What Type of Probate Is Required
Inheritance laws may facilitate passing specific properties without probate (such as property held jointly by a spouse). In this instance, probate isn’t always necessary. Also, the value of the estate may allow it to pass through an expedited process. If probate is required, the Executor needs to file a petition with the court to be appointed the Executor. An attorney’s assistance is necessary to facilitate this.

4. Represent the Estate in Court
An Executor may be required to appear in court on behalf of the estate.

5. Set up a Bank Account for Incoming Funds and Pay Any Ongoing Bills
If the decedent is owed money such as incoming paychecks, this should be deposited in this account. An executor should pay attention to any mortgages, utilities, and other bills that may need to be taken care of during the probate process.

6. Submit A Portfolio of the Estate’s Assets with the Court
In New York, the court requires the Executor to submit a detailed inventory of the assets in the probate estate, which is done in Surrogate Court.

7. Upkeep of the Property Until It Can Be Dispersed or Sold
Upkeep refers to the maintenance of the house until distribution to heirs or sold. An executor must also discover all personal property in the estate and protect it until disbursement. If the decedent had a safety deposit box, the Executor should locate it and keep it safe.

8. Pay the Estate’s Debts and Taxes
State law outlines the procedure for informing creditors. It is essential to know that the estate must also file income tax returns from the first of the current year until the date of the decedent’s death. Depending on the size of the estate, state and or federal estate taxes to pay as well.

9. Distribute Assets
Distribution occurs according to the wishes expressed in the Will. If there is no will, NY state intestacy laws apply.

10. Dispose of Other Property
If any property is left after paying off the estate’s debts and distribution to heirs, the Executor is responsible for its distribution.
Since estates vary considerably in size and complexity, an executor’s job may be easy or challenging to carry out —and responsibilities may extend beyond what is explained here. It is highly recommended that one consults with an experienced estate planning attorney to comply with one’s duties and responsibilities fully.

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