An executor administers the estate of a deceased person. He or she works with the probate court to collect, inventory, and appraise the assets and liabilities of the estate, notify creditors, get court approval for various actions, and report on the distribution of estate assets.
Appointment as Executor
When someone is named executor in a will, he should decide whether he wants to act as executor. If so, and if he determines that he needs to go to probate court to distribute the estate, the court must appoint him as executor. Alternatively, the named executor could decline to act, in which case the court would appoint someone else. Either the executor or some other interested person can make the initial probate court filing. The person who petitions for the probate must notify all beneficiaries named in the will, as well as all of the deceased person’s heirs (his or her closest relatives, who would inherit if the deceased person died without a will) of the hearing on the petition for probate.
The court will task the appointed executor with various duties in wrapping up the estate. These include fiduciary duties requiring the executor to take due care and act in good faith for the benefit of the heirs named in the will.
Inventory and Appraisal
After appointment, executors must locate all assets of the estate and create an estate inventory. Depending on the deceased person’s level of organization, locating assets could either be quick or very difficult. The executor will need to find any property titled in the deceased’s name, any bank accounts he held, any valuable personal property like jewelry, and any cash squirreled away under the mattress. For property other than cash and cash equivalents like money market accounts, the executor must obtain an appraisal of its fair market value by the court-appointed probate referee.
Once the executor has located all property that is part of the estate, he needs to maintain that property. Practically speaking, this involves setting up an estate bank account, paying the bills, performing maintenance on property, and other tasks to keep everything in good shape until it can be distributed. Most executors need to hire professionals such as accountants, property managers, and attorneys to handle all or part of these tasks. The estate pays these professionals’ bills.
Notify Heirs and Creditors
Review of the will should apprise the executor of the designated beneficiaries of the estate. He needs to notify these beneficiaries of their interest in the estate and keep them updated on progress of the probate administration. Collecting the assets of the estate may reveal some potential creditors of the estate. The executor also needs to notify creditors and keep them informed so they can attempt to recover the amount the deceased person owed to them. Beneficiaries and creditors can challenge some of the trustee’s actions before the court if they wish.
Get Court Approval
The executor must get court approval for all actions, unless he obtains full powers to act under the Independent Administration of Estates Act. With these powers, he can sell real estate and take some other actions without court approval. The court must approve the estate inventory and must approve any preliminary or final distributions from the estate to beneficiaries or creditors.
Have you been named as executor in a relative’s will? Angela Klenk, Esq. and the team at Beach Cities Estate Law couple personalized attention to your probate needs with big law firm experience for a winning combination to give you peace of mind. To schedule a case evaluation, visit Beach Cities Estate Law online or call (424) 400-2125.