What Is the Meaning of "Executor of an Estate"?

By Maggie Lourdes

An executor is a person who manages the estate of the deceased, known as the decedent. Also called a personal representative, the executor is typically named in a will. A judge chooses and appoints an estate administrator if a decedent dies intestate, or without a will, or does not name an executor in his will. An estate administrator basically has duties and powers equivalent to an executor. Each state has individual laws regarding estates and executorships.

Opening Probate Estates

Probate refers to the legal process by which an estate is administered. After a will maker dies, someone must present the will to the appropriate state court to open the probate process. A named executor can open the probate process by presenting the will and filing a petition with the probate court in the county in which the decedent resided. The court charges a filing fee to open an estate. State law determines the exact procedure for opening a probate case. The court reviews the will for its validity, and if it is deemed valid, a judge officially appoints the nominated executor to act for the estate.

Executor's Duties

An executor's main duty is to distribute a decedent's estate. The executor has the duty and power to perform tasks like closing bank accounts, selling real estate, signing car titles, paying estate bills and filing estate tax returns. Once the estate debts are satisfied, executors must distribute the remaining estate property to the beneficiaries named in the will. If no will exists, an administrator must distribute a decedent's property to his heirs according to the state's laws of intestacy. Executors must also provide an inventory for the court, listing the estate's assets and debts, as well as a final accounting, indicating how debts were satisfied and assets distributed.

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Professional Help

An executor may us estate money to hire professionals to help him administer a decedent's estate. For example, an executor can retain experts like attorneys, accountants and appraisers. The executor, herself, also may be compensated for her work. State laws determine reasonable fees for executors. Fees can be calculated by the hour or be based on a percentage of the estate's value.

Personal Liability

An executor has no personal liability for a decedent's bills. Therefore, a decedent's bill collectors cannot sue an executor because the estate does not have the funds to fulfill all the debts. An executor can be sued by a decedent's beneficiaries and heirs if she depletes estate money through mismanagement, fraud, or self-dealing. For example, if an executor personally buys a piece of rare, artwork from the estate for less than its fair market value, he may be forced to pay the estate for the loss incurred.

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How to Get an Accounting of My Mother's Estate

Although estate laws vary from one state to another, all states permit you to obtain an accounting of your mother's estate. An accounting is part of the overall probate process. The probate of an estate is a court-supervised process to gather the assets of the person who died, identify and pay any debts, and make a distribution of the remaining assets. Distribution means giving estate property to those individuals identified in a will or, if no will exists, according to the laws of the state where the deceased person lived.

Kentucky Executor Checklist

In Kentucky, the executor is the person named in a will to manage the estate of a deceased person, known as the decedent. If there is no will or no executor is named, an administrator manages the estate. The executor's or administrator's duties include paying the estate's remaining debts and distributing its assets to the heirs and beneficiaries. An executor's duties begin with locating the will.

Rights of Executors in Kentucky

An executor in Kentucky has the authority to act on behalf of the estate, but he has other duties defined in Chapter 395 of the state's laws. Executors in Kentucky may ask for pay, quit or refuse to serve and do some work for the estate before an official court appointment.

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