By Marc Empey
Serving as executor to someone else is a position of trust, but it’s also a tall order. An executor is responsible for realizing another person’s last will and testament – which can be anything as simple as final resting place arrangements to parceling out property. If debts and taxes are involved, the executor might have to protect the deceased person’s assets until such time as those affairs are settled.
Who Can Be an Executor of an Estate?
There is no law requiring an executor to have qualifications in law or finance. The only constraints is one of “fiduciary duty,” which means that the executor is charged with acting in good faith, trust, and honesty in managing the deceased person’s affairs. An interested party may challenge an executor’s actions at a future date if they were found to be negligent of their duty. Our Coachella Valley trust and estates law firm offers consultation to executors of their duties.
Depending on the individual estate, an executor may have any number of basic functions. These may include any of the following:
#1: Secure the deceased person’s assets and distribute them according to their will. In some cases, property might have to be liquidated. Sometimes probate court might be involved, to ensure that the property is distributed fairly. However, for dollar amounts of assets under a certain limit, the probate process is typically streamlined. This prevents courts getting tied up in petty disputes.
#2: Locate or contact all inheritors, and distribute the assets to them. If there’s a will, the executor is expected to follow that. In cases where there is no will, state law will attempt to determine the deceased person’s legal heirs.
#3: File the will and all attendant paperwork with probate court. This is a routine procedure even if no probate actions needed to be taken by the court.
#4: Handle details of the disposition of the deceased person’s assets. Leases and credit cards might need to be terminated, banks and government agencies might need to be notified, and a new bank account might need to be created to facilitate handling new assets – for instance, the deceased may have received paychecks, Veteran’s benefits, stock dividends, or royalties on a copyright. The funds in the account can also be used to pay off expenses such as debts, payments, or premiums.
#5: Settle all taxes. This can be the trickiest part, and your Coachella Valley probate attorney can assist you in selecting a tax accountant for this purpose. Taxes can come to bear on anything from property to investment payments to inheritance taxes. A final income tax return must also be filed.