Archive for July 2014

Do You Know Your Responsibilities If You Are Appointed as an Executor Under A Will?

July 14, 2014

Being appointed as an executor under a will is both an honor and an obligation. In order to make the administration of an estate go smoothly, an executor will often turn to an attorney for aswill--621x414sistance to avoid costly errors. So, as the nominated executor, your first step should be to select any attorney to represent the estate with whom you are comfortable working with. You are not required to retain the attorney who drafted the original will, nor the attorney who has possession of the original will, to assist you in your role as executor.

Below is a brief list of some of the duties of an executor, which will give you a general understanding of the role and responsibilities you assume if you accept the appointment.

1.  Understand the Will.

 It is very important to read and understand the will so that you know who the beneficiaries are and what assets they should receive.  You will need to know if the will gives all the assets outright to the beneficiaries, or if it creates trusts to which the assets are to be distributed.

2.  File the Petition for Probate with the New York State Surrogate’s Court.

A will must be admitted to probate before the distribution of a decedent’s assets. To submit a will for probate you must: (a) locate the New York State Surrogate’s Court with jurisdiction over the estate, which is the court in the county where the decedent lived; (b) obtain and complete a Petition for Probate and all other documents required to file the petition; and (c) file the Petition for Probate, along with the original will and death certificate. If you work with an attorney, they will handle this obligation.

3.  File an Inventory of the Estate’s Assets with the Surrogate’s Court.

After your appointment, you are required to prepare an inventory listing all of the estate’s personal and real property and file it with the Surrogate’s Court. Each asset must be appraised and fully described.

4.  Notify Banks, Credit Card Companies and Government Agencies of the Decedent’s Death.

You should notify all financial institutions in which the decedent held an account, and all credit card companies of the decedent’s death. The Social Security Administration must also be notified.

5.  Set Up a Bank Account for the Estate.

You must set up a separate bank account for the estate. Estate funds must be kept separately and not comingled with any other funds. If the decedent is owed any money, such as a paycheck, this can be deposited into the estate account. It is imperative to keep exact and careful records of all money received and paid out.

6.  Manage the Estate Assets.

You may have to work with attorneys and financial advisors in order to make sure the estate’s assets are properly valued and invested pending distribution to the beneficiaries.

7.  Pay the Estate’s Debts and Taxes.

You must have income tax returns for the estate timely prepared and filed, along with any required payment. You are also required to pay from the estate assets any debts of the decedent which arose prior to death and any debts of the estate incurred in connection with administering the estate.

8.  Represent the Estate in Court.

You will have to appear in court on behalf of the estate in the event the decedent was involved in any lawsuits at the time of death.

9.  Distribute the Assets of the Estate.  

After court approval,you are responsible for distributing the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries in accordance with the decedent’s wishes as expressed in the Will.

10.  Close the Estate.

You must file certain forms with the Surrogate’s Court to close the estate, and should obtain releases from all beneficiaries.

The job as an executor may be easy or complex depending on the simplicity or complexity of the estate, and the responsibilities may go beyond what is listed above. An executor is held to a higher standard of behavior, is expected to act in an ethical manner and manage the estate carefully. If the executor breaches this fiduciary duty, the executor could be held personally liable for any losses suffered by the estate or beneficiaries. We are happy to assist you with your responsibilities as executor, or with any other estate administration needs.