Being designated by a friend or a loved one as the Executor of his or her estate is an honor, but with that designation comes many responsibilities and legal risks.
The Executor’s work begins after the death of the testator (the person who made the Will). The Executor is responsible for “settling” the estate which means that the Executor must:
- identify, gather and value all of the decedent’s assets;
- pay the decedent’s debts and expenses, including all federal and state taxes; and
- distribute to the correct beneficiaries whatever assets remain after all debts and expenses have been paid, in accordance with the terms of the Will.
While this short list makes the Executor’s job seem simple, the reality is that there are many difficult tasks involved in the process and the Executor, as a fiduciary, can be held personally liable for breaching his or her duties in administering the estate.
Before accepting the appointment as Executor you should educate yourself as to the responsibilities and carefully access whether you are able to perform the tasks required. The Executor may hire professionals such as accountants, attorneys, appraisers and others to assist in the administration of the estate.
The article The other side of a will: Serving as executor to an estate by Shelly Schwartz, CNBC, October 3, 2015 provides a helpful discussion.
Getting Legal Help
Experienced Estate Planning and Probate Attorney, Elga A Goodman, can assist you in your role as an Executor. Contact us today at 973-841-5111.