Understanding the role of the executor

A recent article on Forbes.com discussed the role and responsibilities of an executor. The article was packed with helpful information, so we’ll break it down and present some of the highlights in bullet points format for a quick and easy read.

  • The executor typically offers the will for probate, takes action to protect the assets of the estate, makes distributions of property to beneficiaries and pays the debts and taxes of the estate.
  • If an executor mismanages the estate, he or she can be found personally liable.
  • An executor will need to examine the will and trust documents. It’s typically the executor’s responsibility to offer the will for probate, and funds cannot be disbursed without the approval of a probate judge.
  • One responsibility of an executor is to use the estate’s funds to pay for funeral and burial expenses. The funeral home will provide copies of the death certificate, which are needed for closing financial accounts, canceling federal benefit payments, filing the final tax return, etc.
  • It’s the executor’s job to locate, manage and disburse the assets of the estate and determine the value of property such as real estate, artwork and antiques. In many cases, property will need to be liquidated to pay the estate’s debts.
  • The debts of the deceased become the debts of the estate, and they must be paid before gifts may be disbursed to beneficiaries. If the debts outweigh the value of the estate, the heirs are not responsible for them.
  • Finally, the executor must care for the estate’s assets until they can be distributed, by ensuring that property is cared for and that funds are invested prudently.

If you need help fulfilling the duties of executor, remember to consult an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney for assistance.

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