Being an executor is an extremely important task that can be either fairly simple or extremely complicated, depending on the situation. If you have found yourself facing this task by choice or by chance, it is fundamental to know what you are expected to do and what steps you need to take.
Am I Required To Accept An Executor Request?
Let’s begin by saying that just because you have been appointed as the executor, it does not mean you need to accept the job. If you do not feel like you have the capabilities or skills, it is perfectly acceptable to request that another executor be appointed in your place. An executor for an estate is essentially in charge of preserving and managing the decedent’s assets, while any debts and/or taxes are paid and transferring what is left of the assets to beneficiaries.
What Is An Executor Required To Do?
Executors have a fiduciary duty to act in good faith and honesty on behalf of someone else. As an executor, you are not expected to be an expert in any single area, such as finances or taxes, but you are expected to be transparent and as organized as possible. Your to-do list will include several items, starting with gathering an inventory of the deceased person’s assets and seeing what needs to be managed or maintained (such as any real estate property), until it can be passed on to heirs.
Having the whole estate accounted for, you will then be able to determine if going through probate will be necessary. Oftentimes, all or part of the estate will require probate, but smaller estates or assets with a payable-on-death or transferable-on-death designation (among others) may not need probate. This is when the knowledge of an estate planning and probate attorney might be beneficial to provide you with guidance about probate matters.
Before that, you will also need to establish whether the decedent left a will. If so, you will need to file it with the local probate court, regardless of whether probate proceedings are needed or not. You will need to consult the will to determine which beneficiaries receive what assets. You will also need to contact each listed beneficiary and continue to communicate with them throughout the process.
What Tasks And Duties Are Executors Supposed To Do?
Your duties as an executor also include terminating leases, credit cards, and notifying banks and government agencies of the death. You will also be required to notify any creditors of the death following the official procedure required by your state. Finally, you may need to file an income tax return for the current tax year, as well as an estate tax return (for large estates). Once all debts and taxes have been paid, you will be expected to oversee the distribution of the remaining assets to any beneficiaries.
This is just a general overview of what an executor does, there may be additional steps depending on the complexity and size of a particular estate. It is highly recommended to seek the help of an estate administration and planning attorney, as settling an estate can be a daunting task. The Clarksville estate planning attorneys at Crow Estate Planning and Probate, PLC have helped many go through the process of being an executor, and they can offer valuable insights and guidance for your case. Contact us to learn more. We are here to help in any way we can.