Residents who are far-sighted enough to create an estate plan will often ask a friend or other trusted individual, such as an attorney, to serve as executor when the will’s maker dies. Often, death comes unexpectedly, and the person who agreed to be the executor is suddenly faced with a long list of duties and responsibilities. This post will attempt to provide a useful preview of an executor’s duties in order to reduce the elements of surprise and confusion.
The executor’s basic duties are the collection of the assets of the decedent, payment of claims owed by the estate and distribution of the remaining assets as directed by the will or other testamentary document (such as a trust). The actual list of an executor’s duties is much longer and much more complicated.
The first item is to obtain an appointment as executor of the estate by the court. This step normally requires the assistance of an attorney. The executor must also make an inventory of the estate’s assets. This step may require extensive investigation into existing financial accounts.
If the decedent had extensive assets, the collection of those assets may require significant time and effort. The executor ordinarily receives compensation for these efforts. Another important duty is providing notice of the decedent’s death to friends, the Social Security Administration, banks credit card companies, and other entities that may have an interest in the distribution of assets.
Managing the estate
As time goes by, the executor will be called upon to pay or settle claims against the estate. This task, depending on the nature and location of the decedent’s assets, may be complicated. Ensuring that all taxes are paid in a timely fashion is another complex task that executors face. Expert assistance by accountants, attorneys and bank trust departments provides a common source of help.
Sound legal counsel
The administration of an ordinary estate takes approximately one year, depending on the degree of complexity. If the heirs disagree over the distribution of assets directed by the will or trust document, litigation might erupt and the entire process will be slowed down. An executor is entitled to retain an experienced attorney for advice and court appearances during the administration.