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What Does an Executor Do?

Jul 31, 2018 - Probate by

If you have been named as executor of an estate, this isn’t just a figurehead position. The death of your loved one who named you as executor has resulted in a host of new legal obligations being imposed upon you, should you choose to be appointed to fulfill this role. 

You do not have to agree to be executor of an estate, even if a last will and testament specifies that you should serve. The court could appoint an estate administrator or a personal representative – but many people who have been named as executor of an estate do decide to honor the wishes of the deceased even though a lot of responsibility is involved. 

A Miami probate attorney can provide representation when you are determining if you are up to fulfilling the role of executor of an estate and can also offer assistance in undertaking your responsibilities so the probate process can go as smoothly as possible.

What’s the Role of an Executor?

An executor of an estate has a fiduciary duty to fulfill responsibilities during probate with reasonable care, while acting in the best interests of the estate. Executors cannot and should not be negligent or attempt to enrich themselves at the estate’s expense, lest they end up being sued for breach of fiduciary duty.

Executors have ample obligations, so knowing what’s expected is the first key criteria to fulfill a fiduciary duty successfully. While the specific obligations of an executor during probate can vary depending upon the size and complexity of the estate and nature of property being transferred, there are some common steps that executors nearly always must fulfill during probate. These include:

  • Filing paperwork with the court: Executors need to initiate court proceedings with an appropriate filing, and must provide the court with other documents as needed, including any last will and testament left behind.
  • Providing notice to interested parties: Those with potential claims on the estate should make certain they are aware of probate proceedings in the event they need to argue they have a right to some of the deceased’s assets.
  • Making a complete accounting of estate assets: The executor of an estate should track down any missing money or property; should make an effort to collect if the deceased was acting as a creditor; and should make an accounting of all assets that are part of the estate. This could be necessary for a variety of issues, including valuation of the property for purposes of determining if estate tax will be owed.
  • Taking care of tax issues: The executor of an estate will need to obtain a tax ID for the estate, if necessary, and will need to ensure to file all required forms with the IRS.
  • Facilitating the transfer of wealth: Finally, the executor of an estate takes other required steps during the probate process to make sure the wishes of the deceased are respected when it comes to distribution of assets.

A Miami probate attorney can provide guidance as the executor fulfills his or her role. Executors should be represented by a qualified lawyer, and heirs or beneficiaries may also wish to get their own attorney to help ensure the executor of an estate is fulfilling his or her duties and protecting an inheritance. Call today to learn more.