The executor of a will, sometimes referred to as the fiduciary or administrator, is responsible for distributing all the property enumerated in a will to the proper beneficiaries. It may sound like a straightforward process, but it is a massive undertaking that entails several important responsibilities. In short, the executor takes control of the estate property to help ensure the will is strictly followed.
Submitting The Will
The executor is responsible for submitting the will to the testator's local probate court. The submission includes a petition that states specific information about the testator, the testator's death and information about the will itself. The petition asks the probate court to validate the will and formally appoint the executor.
Locating the Property
The executor must locate all the property mentioned in the will. This will include bank accounts and all physical assets. This is known as probate property. The executor must review all pertinent documentation to determine if any property in question is property of the estate and take physical possession of that property. The executor also must determine the fair market value of all the probate property.
Locate All Beneficiaries
The executor must find and notify every beneficiary named in the will. The beneficiaries are the individuals who will take property left to them in the will by the testator (i.e., the deceased). The property cannot be properly administered until all the beneficiaries are found.
Satisfy Financial Obligations
The executor must notify all creditors of the testator's death and pay all the testator's debts and taxes in a timely fashion. This includes paying estate taxes and income taxes, filing death tax returns and resolving any other financial obligations. A federal tax ID number must also be obtained for tax purposes. The executor may sell some property to satisfy outstanding debts. Accurate accounting records of these transactions must be kept and made available to the beneficiaries.
Follow the Instructions of the Will
The instructions of the will must be strictly followed. For example, the testator can leave directions on how to invest part of the estate property. The executor must follow these directions as closely as possible. Furthermore, no one is allowed to make amendments to the will other than the testator. Strict adherence to the will is an integral part of ensuring the intent of the testator is honored during the probate process.
Filing a Final Report
The executor will file a final report with the probate court that outlines the actions the executor took during the probate process in order to administer the probate property. It will also state that the property has been handed over to the proper beneficiaries.
Right to Reimbursement
Executors have the right to be reimbursed for all costs associated with administering the estate. Ideally, the will has instructions on how to reimburse the executor. If not, the executor can seek assistance from the courts.