By Shaun Murphy
Acting as the executor on an estate is both an honor and an encumbrance. An executor has the heavy duty of honoring the wishes of a decedent with respect to his personal and real property, children, and any specific requests he may have had regarding these issues. An executor must handle and protect the decedent’s property and affairs through payment of the estate’s taxes and debts and distribution of any remaining assets to his beneficiaries. A Los Angeles probate attorney can help define the executor’s duties.
An executor has many tasks that vary depending upon the involvedness of the decedent’s estate, his financial circumstances and family situations.
Typical executor duties include the following:
• Locate, inventory and manage the decedent’s assets through distribution to the beneficiaries. When applicable, this may involve liquidating these assets and distributing the proceeds of the sale.
• Obtain certified copies of the death certificate.
• Determine the necessity of probate court. In many situations probate court proceedings aren’t necessary, such as joint ownership of assets, and estates with a total value below a state-mandated level.
• Determine who the beneficiaries are, either through a will if it exists, or if not, then by way of the state’s intestate succession laws.
• If a will exists, file it with the probate court in the proper jurisdiction. This is typically a legal requirement even if the estate does not need to pass through probate.
• Manage daily affairs required by the passing of the decedent, such as cancelling credit cards and leases, and notifying the applicable government agencies and financial institutions of the death.
• If the decedent owned rental property, the executor needs to establish rental management immediately.
• Establish a bank account for the estate to receive and hold any accounts receivable of the decedent, such as paychecks, loan repayments and stock dividends.
• Pay ongoing expenses from the estate funds, such as mortgage and homeowner’s insurance payments and utility bills.
• Pay debts from the estate funds. If the estate is passing through probate court, the executor must follow applicable state law procedures for notifying the decedent’s creditors.
• File a final income tax statement and pay taxes from the estate funds. Not all estates require payment of federal and state estate taxes. Usually only large estates are subject to these.
• Oversee the distribution of the decedent’s property to his beneficiaries as stipulated in his will, or to his legal inheritors by intestate succession if he died without a will.
Interested parties who have not been named the executor or trustee should seek legal counsel from Palm Springs trust and estate lawyers to determine whether those parties executed all the requirements of the will or trust accurately and in a timely manner.