What Does the Executor of a Will Do?
A number of decisions have to be made when a Last Will and Testament is created. The majority of those decisions relate to the disposition of estate assets; however, there are other decisions that must be made as well, including the appointment of an Executor. All too often, the appointment of an Executor is more of an afterthought and is done without giving the choice much thought. A better understanding of the numerous and varied duties and responsibilities of an Executor, however, should point out the importance of taking the time to choose the right person for the job. Among those duties and responsibilities are the following:
- Securing estate assets – immediately following the death of the decedent, the Executor must locate, secure, inventory, and value all assets in which the decedent had an ownership interest.
- Opening probate – documents must be prepared and filed, along with the original Will, with the appropriate probate court to open the probate of the decedent’s estate.
- Notifying creditors – creditors of the estate must be notified that probate has been started. Notice must also be published in a local newspaper for unknown creditors.
- Reviewing claims – creditors have a specific amount of time within which to file a claim against the estate. The Executor must review all claims and approve or deny the claim. Approved claims must then be paid out of estate assets.
- Defending the estate – if the Will is challenged, or a creditor whose claim was denied chooses to litigate the claim, the Executor must defend the estate throughout the subsequent litigation.
- Managing property –the Executor is responsible for managing estate property throughout the probate process. For real property, this may include everything from ensuring that taxes are paid to overseeing necessary repairs or maintenance.
- Selling property – sometimes, estate assets must be sold to pay creditor claims or to create the required division of assets as called for in the decedent’s Will. When assets must be sold, the Executor is responsible for overseeing the sale.
- Paying taxes – before probate can be concluded, all personal and estate taxes must be calculated and paid by the Executor out of estate assets.
- Transferring assets – finally, the Executor is responsible for ensuring that all documents necessary for the legal transfer of estate assets to the intended beneficiaries are prepared and filed, after which the assets are actually transferred to the new owners.
It should be clear at this point that the choice of Executor can ensure that the probate process moves along smoothly and efficiently or can cause probate to turn into a lengthy and costly affair which is why the choice should only be made after careful consideration and contemplation.