Who is an executor?
An executor is the individual named in a person’s will to take responsibility of managing their estate and disbursing it when the testator passes away. When the testator dies, the executor has to take the will to court for validation because handling someone’s estate has to be legal. Once the court receives the will, probate commences.
What is probate?
Probate is a legal process where the will of a deceased gets validated by the probate court before its instructions can be carried out. From the moment the will is taken to court and the moment the estate is distributed, there are certain activities that must be carried out by the executor. These activities are what we refer to as the roles of the executor during the probate process.
So what are these roles?
Roles of the executor in the probate process
1. Filing the petition
When the testator passes away, the executor must take charge over the estate. But to do this, he must first file a formal petition to the probate court alongside the will and death certificate of the testator. This can be done a few days up to a certain number of weeks after the death, depending on the state.
It is important that every testator informs their executor that they have been named and where they can find the will. Without this, the executor would have no idea whether they are supposed to do anything at all because they don’t even know they were named as an executor.
2. Notifying the public
The court receives the will and checks its validity. If found authentic, they will then issue a document “known as Letters Testamentary”, authorizing the executor to carry on with their duties. They will also fix a date for a court hearing.
Once the executor receives the authorization, he must then notify the public that probate has officially begun, asking all interested parties to be available at the hearing.
Interested parties include the family of the deceased, their creditors, and all concerned relatives or friends. He can publicize the news on newspaper and any other media outlet.
3. Identifying, inventorying, and valuating all assets
The next role of the executor is to identify all assets owned by the testator (only probate assets, leaving non-probate assets out). He can get this by going through all the deceased’s documents, checking for deeds, financial statements, and anything that pertains to ownership. The executor should list each asset out and calculate the overall value. This value is the worth of the estate.
The executor will have several costs to settle during probate, all of which must be done with estate funds. Hence, he has to open a checking account with the estate, dedicated to footing probate expenses.
4. Managing the estate
The executor has the delicate responsibility of managing the estate throughout probate. He must make sensible decisions to make investment when and where possible, as well as sell properties to get liquid funds. All of that may not be necessary, but if situation calls for it, they have to make the call. But whatever the executor does has to be in the best interest of the estate.
5. Paying estate debts, taxes, funeral expenses, etc.
The executor then proceeds to settle all outstanding financial obligations of the deceased. These may include income tax, federal and/or state estate tax, medical bills before death, and funeral expenses, etc. All of these must be paid from the estate purse.
The executor has to file the tax return forms on time to avoid penalties. Also, he must be prudent in assessing which creditor claim is legitimate and which isn’t because there is a great chance wolves will come looking for food where they did not sow. To be on the safer side, it’s advisable for the executor to hire l an experienced probate attorney for guidance.
6. Distributing the estate
After all financial obligations have been settled, the executor can now proceed to the final stage: disbursing the estate to the beneficiaries. However, he must first submit to the court an accounting record of all his transactions during probate. Only after approval can he proceed to disbursement.
In the absence of a will, the court will appoint an estate administrator instead of an executor. This person has exactly the same responsibilities as the executor. However, asset distribution will be according to the intestate laws of the state in question.
Get help from a probate attorney near you
The probate process is often lengthy and complicated, with a great chance for family disputes, will contest and estate litigation to arise. As an executor, it is important you seek professional assistance to avoid or deal with such situations. Their charges will be paid from the estate’s purse, so you have nothing to lose and all to gain.
Get help from a probate attorney near you.