What Are an Executor’s Responsibilities?
Being the executor of an estate is not a task to take lightly. An executor is a person responsible for managing the administration of a deceased individual’s estate. The time and effort involved will vary with the size of the estate. But even if you are the executor of a small estate, you will have important duties that must be performed correctly, or you may be liable to the estate or beneficiaries.
How Do I Become an Executor?
The executor is either named in the will, or if there is no will, appointed by the court. You do not have to accept the position of executor even if you are named in the will.
What Does an Executor Do?
The average estate administration takes one year, though you won’t need to work full time on it. The following are some of the duties you may have to perform as executor:
- Find documents. If there is a will, but you don’t already know where the will is, or it hasn’t already been brought to court, you may need to find it among the deceased’s belongings. If all you have is a copy of the will, you may need to get the original from the lawyer who drafted it. You will also need to get copies of the death certificate.
- Hire an attorney. You are not required to hire an attorney, but mistakes can cost you money. You may be personally liable if something goes wrong with the estate or the payment of taxes. An attorney can help you make sure all the proper steps are taken and deadlines are met.
- Apply for probate. If there is a will, the court will grant you letters testamentary. If there is no will, you will receive letters of administration. This will officially begin your work as the executor.
- Notify interested parties.Notify the beneficiaries of the will, if there is a will, as well as any potential heirs (such as children, siblings, or parents who may or may not be named in a will). In addition, you must place an advertisement for potential creditors in a newspaper near the deceased’s residence.
- Manage the deceased’s property. You will need to prepare a list of the deceased’s assets and liabilities and may need to collect any property in the hands of other people. One of the executor’s jobs is to protect the property from loss, so you’ll need to ensure the property is kept safe. You also need to hire an appraiser to find out how much any property is worth. In addition, if the estate includes a business, you may have to make sure the business continues to run.
- Pay valid claims by creditors. Once the creditors are determined, you’ll need to pay the deceased’s debts from the estate’s funds. The executor is not personally liable for the deceased’s debts. The estate usually pays any reasonable funeral expenses first. Other debts include probate and administration fees and taxes, as well as any valid claims filed by creditors.
- File tax returns. You need to make sure the tax forms are filed within the time frame set under the law. Taxes will include estate taxes and income taxes.
- Distribute the assets to the beneficiaries. Once the creditors’ claims are clear, the executor is responsible for making sure the beneficiaries get what they are entitled to under the will or under the law if there is no will. You may be required to sell property to fulfill legacies in a will. In addition, you may have to set up any trusts required by the will.
- Keep accurate records. It is very important to keep accurate records of everything you do. You will need to create a final accounting, which the beneficiaries must review before the distribution of the estate can be finalized. The accounting should include any distributions and expenses, along with any income earned by the estate since the deceased died.
- File the final accounting with the court. Once the final accounting is approved by the beneficiaries and the court, the court will close the estate. File a final report with the court.
All this can be a lot of work, but the executor is entitled to compensation, subject to court approval. Keep in mind that the compensation is counted as income, so you will need to declare it on your income taxes. If you or someone you love is an executor of an estate located in White County, Pulaski County, Saline County, and surrounding cities, including Benton, Sherwood, and Little Rock, AR, we can provide legal guidance and support.
At McClelland Law Firm, we believe that limiting our practice areas provides the greatest value to our clients. To us, value means providing exceptional service and efficient processes for each of our practice areas.
We are committed to compassionate representations, especially as it relates to elder law. No one should feel pressured, controlled, or “talked down” to in any meeting. Every client deserves to be heard and understood.
McClelland Law Firm, P.A. is here to help you and your loved ones understand probate and trust administration, estate planning, Medicaid planning, crisis planning, guardianship, and elder law. Our Benton, Sherwood, and Searcy law offices welcome you to contact us and learn how we can help meet your elder law legal matters in White County, Pulaski County, Saline County, and throughout Arkansas.