Being an Executor
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What is an Executor?
An executor is the person who is responsible for settling the details of a deceased person's estate. There can be a single executor or one or more people charged with this job. An executor can be related to the deceased person, can be a friend or a lawyer, accountant, or other professional. The main requirement is that the person chosen as executor be at least 18 years old and have not been convicted of a felony. If you have been named the executor of someone's estate, you have been given a job of great responsibility.
What Does an Executor Do?
An executor's duties are largely administrative. They begin at the time of death and continue until the estate's assets have been distributed and taxes and bills have been paid. Duties of an executor include, but are not limited to:
- paying valid creditors
- paying taxes
- notifying Social Security and other agents and companies of the death
- canceling credit cards, magazine subscriptions, etc.
- distributing assets according to the will
What is the First Step in Being an Executor?
Settling an estate begins with probating a will. As executor you will need to:
- find the original will (this is often left with an attorney)
- consider hiring an estate lawyer
Who Determines Whether the Will is Valid?
The probate court is responsible for determining the validity of the will.
What if Someone Wants to Challenge the Will?
If a person wishes to challenge the will, they must file a challenge with the probate court.
What Happens After the Will Is Determined to Be Valid?
Once the probate court declares that the will is valid, you as the executor can begin paying taxes and other claims against the estate. You can also at this point begin distributing assets to the beneficiaries. When this process has been completed, you must provide the probate court with evidence that the taxes and wills have been paid and the assets distributed. Only when the probate court recognizes that these duties have been fulfilled will the estate be considered settled.
What Else Will I Be Required to Do As Executor?
There are many duties involved in being an executor. Here is a checklist to ensure that you have completed or been made aware of those duties:
- locate the will
- obtain a lawyer
- apply to appear before the probate court
- notify beneficiaries
- arrange for publication of notice to creditors
- send death notices to appropriate parties
- inventory assets and have them appraised
- collect debts owed to the estate
- check for unpaid salary and insurance benefits
- file for Social Security and other benefits
- file for life insurance and other benefits
- file tax returns
- pay claims against the estate
- distribute assets to beneficiaries
- file papers to finalize the estate
Do I Get Paid to Be an Executor?
The estate is usually responsible for paying the executor a fee. The fee may be specified in the will, or it may be determined by state regulations. The executor¿s fee may be waived if you wish to do so. If you, the executor, are an attorney, the law in most states prevents you from collecting both an executor¿s fee and an attorney¿s fee for legal advice on the estate.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer if I am Named as an Executor?
Being an executor of even a simple estate can be a complicated job. Consulting an experienced estate attorney will make your job simpler and ensure that the job is done right.
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Last Modified: 01-11-2013 02:14 PM PST
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