California Executor Checklist

By David Carnes

The executor is the person who manages the estate of the deceased, also known as the decedent, during the probate process. The executor is responsible for paying debts of the estate and distributing assets to the heirs. California law allows for the compensation of executors from the estate assets.

The executor is the person who manages the estate of the deceased, also known as the decedent, during the probate process. The executor is responsible for paying debts of the estate and distributing assets to the heirs. California law allows for the compensation of executors from the estate assets.

Appointment

The probate process begins when an interested party files a copy of the will and the decedent's death certificate with the California Superior Court sitting in the county of the deceased person's former residence. Whoever the decedent named as executor in the will must file a petition with the court requesting appointment as executor. If the petition is granted, the court will formally appoint the executor and provide him with documentation establishing his authority to third parties. This documentation allows the executor to access the deceased person's property -- by withdrawing money from his bank account, for example.

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Inventory

The executor must inventory all the property that belongs to the estate including bank accounts, cash, personal property, real estate and securities such as stock certificates. He must also collect any debts owed to the deceased -- business debts, for example, or a final paycheck.

Dealing With Creditors

All estate debts must be paid before any property can be distributed to heirs. The executor must locate all estate creditors and pay all debts, selling estate property if necessary to raise funds to pay creditors. He must also file tax returns on behalf of the estate. The IRS imposes an estate tax on estates worth more than an annually variable cutoff amount, and imposes income tax on estates that earn more than $600 during the tax year. The executor must complete IRS Form 706 if estate tax is due and IRS Form 1041 if estate income tax is due. At the time of publication, California does not impose estate taxes on the estates of those who died on or after January 1, 2005, and no filing is required.

Distribution of Assets

Once estate debts are paid, the executor may distribute assets to the beneficiaries. If insufficient assets remain in the estate to satisfy the bequests contained in the will, the court may apportion the remainder of the estate to heirs in the manner that most closely effectuates the deceased person's original intentions. If the estate is insolvent, heirs will receive nothing. The executor must complete IRS Schedule K-1, Form 1041, on behalf of each heir and distribute a copy to each heir.

Compensation

The executor and the estate's attorney may be paid using estate funds. California law caps the total amount paid to both these parties using a sliding scale that begins with 4 percent of the first $100,000 of the value of the estate, not to exceed 1/2 percent of the value of an estate that exceeds $10 million.

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Can an Executor Be Forced to Sell Property to Pay Debts?

References

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Iowa State Laws on Executors

Probate is the process by which your estate is transferred to your beneficiaries after your death. An executor is the person you appointed in your will who is responsible for overseeing the probate process. In Iowa, the executor is also referred to as the personal representative. Your executor has a duty to act in accordance with your wishes and in the best interests of your beneficiaries.

What Does the Executor of a Will Do?

Being named as the executor of a person's will can be a great honor; as the individual chosen by the deceased to manage his affairs after death, the executor is generally a person the deceased trusted to carry out his last wishes. The executor of a will must exercise the utmost fiduciary care and diligence in administering the decedent's estate.

Responsibilities of an Estate Executor in California

Probate is a court process that results in the distribution of the property of the deceased, known as the decedent, to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs. The decedent’s assets are collectively referred to as the estate. To handle the decedent’s assets and manage the distribution of the estate, the court appoints an executor, who is typically named in the decedent's will. In some states, including California, the executor is known as the personal representative. If there is no will, the court appoints an estate administrator to perform these duties. The executor is charged with a number of responsibilities with respect to the estate. Although the court supervises the executor, an executor who fails to perform these responsibilities reasonably can be sued for mismanagement.

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