How Does the Executor of an Estate Resign in California?

By Abby Lane

Probate is a court-supervised process that transfers legal title of property from the estate of the deceased, known as the decedent, to his beneficiaries and heirs. In California, the Superior Court in the county where the decedent lived when he died handles the probate process. Typically, when a person makes a will, he names an executor, also known as a personal representative, to oversee the administration of the estate according to his wishes. An executor has numerous responsibilities. If you are named as an executor in California or in any other state, you have the option of declining the appointment, or resigning at a later date if you accept the appointment.

Probate is a court-supervised process that transfers legal title of property from the estate of the deceased, known as the decedent, to his beneficiaries and heirs. In California, the Superior Court in the county where the decedent lived when he died handles the probate process. Typically, when a person makes a will, he names an executor, also known as a personal representative, to oversee the administration of the estate according to his wishes. An executor has numerous responsibilities. If you are named as an executor in California or in any other state, you have the option of declining the appointment, or resigning at a later date if you accept the appointment.

The Executor

If a person dies without a will, or does not name an executor in the will, the California Superior Court will appoint an estate administrator to handle the estate in probate. When the will names you as executor, you still must request appointment from the California Superior Court by filing a petition, or formal request, with the clerk of the court. Your appointment becomes effective when the court issues letters testamentary, or letters of administration, which are the formal documents that allow you to act as the executor.

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The Executor’s Duties

If you are named executor in a will, while you do not have to accept the appointment, if you do accept it, you have a fiduciary duty, which is the duty to act with good faith, diligence and honesty on behalf of the decedent, as well as an obligation to the beneficiaries named in the will to preserve all the assets of the estate. You are responsible for collecting the assets of the estate, paying taxes, notifying and settling with creditors to ensure that all debts are paid, hiring professionals such as accountants, appraisers and attorneys if necessary, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with law and the will.

Resigning as Executor

You may find that serving as executor is too difficult or time consuming, or that you don't have the skills necessary to serve effectively. In that case, you can, and should, resign as executor. In California, you can resign at any time, for any reason, by filing a petition with the court. You may also have to provide the court with an accounting -- a detailed report of everything you did while you served as executor -- before the court accepts your petition of resignation.

Alternate Executor or Estate Administrator

In many instances, the will names an alternate, or successor, executor to serve if the first executor resigns or cannot serve. Generally, the court will appoint the successor executor after you resign. If the will does not name an alternate executor, or the successor is not willing or available, the court will appoint an estate administrator.

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Estate Administrator Duties

References

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Massachusetts Laws Regarding the Administrator of an Estate

Probate is the court-supervised process whereby the assets of a deceased person are collected and distributed according to the terms of a will, or by state law if no valid will exists. If named in the will, the person charged with handling the probate process and reporting to the court is usually known as an executor. If not named in the will, or if there is no will, the court appoints an administrator to oversee the distribution of assets.

An Executor's Duties to a Beneficiary

Executors are individuals who are appointed through a will to ensure the wishes of the testator, person who created the will, are carried out. In some states, executors are called personal representatives. Since the testator is deceased, the executor owes certain duties to those who stand to benefit from the deceased's will, known as beneficiaries. While the primary duty of the executor is to follow the instructions of the testator and administer the will as written, the executor has other legal duties, called fiduciary duties, he owes the beneficiaries.

Can You Remove an Executor if Ancillary Probate Is Not Filed?

When a decedent names you as a beneficiary in his will, you may not be able to claim your inheritance until the will is probated. Probate is the legal process through which an estate in settled. Once a petition for probate is filed and the will is presented to the court, the judge appoints an executor, who is typically named in the will. The executor has the responsibility of managing and distributing the estate throughout the probate process. In certain cases, the executor's duties may include filing for ancillary probate proceedings. If ancillary probate is necessary, but the executor doesn’t initiate the proceedings, removal of the executor may be possible.

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