One of the first practical steps that must be taken after someone dies is to determine if the decedent executed a Last Will and Testament. If the Will is located, it should indicate who the decedent appointed to be the Executor of the estate. If that person is you, it is completely understandable if you have mixed emotions about being about. Ultimately, do you have to accept the appointment though? The Glastonbury estate planning attorneys at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. discuss what to do if you do not want to accept the job of Executor.
Probate for the Beginner
Before discussing the job of Executor specifically, it helps to learn a little about the overall process of probate first. Because most people leave behind an estate when they die, the law has a vested interest in making sure the assets included in that estate are properly handled. Probate is the legal process that identifies, values, and eventually distributes those assets. Probate also allows a Will to be authenticated or challenged (if one was left behind), creditors to be notified and file claims against the estate, and all debts of the estate to be paid. If the decedent executed a Last Will and Testament prior to his/her death, that Will should indicate who the decedent wanted to be the Executor of the estate.
What Does an Executor Do?
Just as no two individuals are identical, neither are any two estates identical. Consequently, the probate process will not be exactly the same for all estates. There are, however, some common duties and responsibilities you can expect to take on if you accept the position of Executor, including:
- Identifying and securing estate assets. Immediately upon learning of the decedent’s death, the Executor of the estate must try to identify and secure as many estate assets as possible.
- Initiating the probate of the estate. A petition, along with an original copy of the Will and a certified death certificate are usually required to be filed with the appropriate court in order to get probate started.
- Categorizing, inventorying, and valuing estate assets. Because not all assets are probate assets, all assets must be categorized as probate or non-probate.
- Notifying creditors. Creditors must be notified and given an opportunity to file a claim against the estate.
- Reviewing creditor claims. The Executor must review all claims submitted and approve or deny each one. Approved claims are paid out of estate assets.
- Defending against challenges. In the event that someone decides to challenge the validity of the Will submitted for probate, the Executor is responsible for legally defending the Will throughout the ensuing litigation.
- Managing assets. Throughout the entire probate process, the Executor has a duty to manage and protect all estate assets until they are transferred to a new owner.
- Calculating and paying estate taxes. The Executor must determine if any federal and/or state gift and estate taxes are due from the estate and any tax debt owed must be paid.
- Transfer assets to beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. At the end of the probate process the Executor will transfer the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
Turning Down the Job of Executor
One benefit to executing a Will is the ability to appoint someone as the Executor of your estate. For many people, it is a comforting thought to know who will be in charge of their estate assets after they are gone. The court, however, must approve that appointment and make the appointment official. If someone recently passed away and named you as the Executor of their estate, you are not obligated to accept that appointment. Maybe you recently moved out of state and acting as the Executor would not be practical. Your job and/or family obligations might not leave you with sufficient time (or energy) to serve as the Executor. Or it could be that you simply don’t want to take on the responsibility. The good news is that you can turn down the job of Executor without any repercussions. If you have an original copy of the decedent’s Will, however, you may be obligated to submit that to the appropriate court within a relatively short period of time.
Contact Glastonbury Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns about serving as the Executor of an estate, contact the experienced Glastonbury estate planning attorneys at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. by calling (860) 548-1000 to schedule an appointment.
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