Estate Administration for Everyone: Understanding the Role and Responsibilities As Executor of An Estate

Estate Administration for Everyone: Understanding the Role and Responsibilities As Executor of An Estate

Natalie Cantave
October 12, 2023

Last week, we kicked off our 4-part blog series, featuring our beginner’s guide to estate planning and securing your legacy. Our second post will focus on the role and responsibilities of an estate executor.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the role of an executor of an estate and the responsibilities that come with it:

  • What does it mean to be an executor of an estate?

An executor is the person who will carry out your wishes regarding your estate, which are documented in your will or trust. An executor can be someone of your choosing - family, friends, accountants, or attorneys. It must be someone you trust with the responsibilities that come with managing your assets and possessions when you’re no longer here.

  • Can a beneficiary also be an executor?

Yes! This is common as individuals select their spouse or adult children.

  • What if I don’t want to be named as an executor? Can I reject or renounce this responsibility? If so, what are my alternatives?

Yes, you can renounce the role if you are not able to take on the responsibilities. If the will has named an alternate executor, that person will take over. If not, the court will appoint someone to step in.

  • What happens if I don’t name an executor?

If the will doesn’t include an executor, the closest hair has the opportunity to petition to the court to be named. If no heirs come forward, the court will appoint one.

  • What are some of the responsibilities that come with being an executor?

1. Collect a death certificate — make sure to ask for copies since you’ll need it for other actions.

2. File the deceased’s will with the county probate court so that the court can officially appoint you as the executor of the estate. This takes place during the legal process known as probate, which will confirm that the will is indeed the last will and testament or the deceased.

3. Communicate with creditors, beneficiaries, credit bureaus, heirs, banks and government agencies of the deceased’s passing —> one way to do this is publishing a notice, which can be done via our Notice to Creditors product!

4. Locate the estate’s assets and secure them. This is one of the biggest priorities for the role since this can prevent any potential losses if all assets aren’t accounted for

5. Determine whether or not the deceased has any outstanding debts or liabilities. If found, the executor will pay those bills with the estate assets.

6. After debts are paid, the executor can transfer the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. If you want control over how your assets are distributed, it is highly recommended that you create a trust or will. More to come in our next blog post.

7. If there is no will, the estate will still need to undergo probate. In this case, the court will provides a representative with the authority to handle the estate of the deceased.

  • Can I be compensated for my work as an executor?

Yes, as an executor you are entitled to compensation. The amount of compensation is regulated by your jurisdiction’s laws and can be affected by factors e.g. the value of the deceased’s assets and property. The county probate court will also determine if compensation is reasonable.

Beneficiaries don’t receive compensation.

  • What is an executor NOT allowed to do?

1. Carry out the will before you’re gone;

2. Manage the estate before court approval;

3. Change the terms of the will;

4. Sell the estate’s assets for less than market value; and,

5. Co-mingle the estate’s assets with their personal assets. If this happens, an executor can get in trouble with the court for putting the deceased’s funds in their personal bank account or changing the title of property to their own name.

  • Why should you consider hiring a professional to support you?

1. Naming an executor of an estate can feel overwhelming. A lawyer can act as an agent for the executor of an estate which can remove the practical burden felt by beneficiaries or family members if one is named an executor.

2. An attorney can navigate the probate process and answer any legal questions as they come up throughout the process.

3. Accountants can also be retained to file taxes on behalf of the deceased and on behalf of the estate, which is one of the duties of the executor that they can delegate to a professional.

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