Executor Duties Checklist
Many estate owners choose a close relative to serve the role of executor for their assets in their will. We often suggest the spouse or an adult family member (daughter, son, etc.) be selected (appointed) and stipulated in the will to our clients, who would also be assisted by financial or legal representation when appropriate. This is a very important decision. In cases when an executor isn’t identified in the will, the court assigns one (least desirable).
An executor is a person named in a valid will to serve as the personal representative of a deceased person when his or her will is being probated. When death occurs, the executor must locate and collect the decedent’s property, pay debts, taxes, expenses and oversee distribution of the remaining assets to the beneficiaries specified in the decedent’s will. If you anticipate ever being selected to serve as an executor, you will have very important responsibilities.
A good executor is sensitive, competent, has an understanding and appreciation of the needs and circumstances of the beneficiaries, knows the nature, value and extent of the decedents’s assets, is familiar with the decedent’s business, usually has a geographic proximity to the beneficiaries and the estate’s assets, is able and willing to serve, has no conflict(s) of interest and is loyal with high levels of integrity.
With your financial representative or attorney’s guidance, you will have the authority and responsibility to perform the following tasks:
- Obtain, read and understand a copy of the latest will and all provided instructions.
- File a petition with the court to admit the will to probate.
- Provide notice to the beneficiaries of the estate, along with immediate members of the decedent’s family.
- Open estate checking and savings accounts.
- Collect and organize all of the decedent’s assets.
- If the decedent had a safe deposit box, take possession of it and its contents.
- Consult with banks and savings and loans in the area to find all accounts of the deceased. Also check for cash and other valuables that may be hidden around the home.
- Transfer all securities to the executor’s name; continue to collect dividends and interest on behalf of the heirs of the deceased.
- Locate and inventory all real estate deeds, mortgages, leases, and tax information.
- Provide immediate management for rental properties.
- Arrange ancillary administration for out-of-state property.
- Collect money owed the deceased and check interests in estates of other deceased persons.
- Locate all household and personal effects and other personal property to inventory and protect them.
- Arrange for and collect all life insurance proceeds payable to the estate.
- Find and safeguard all business interests, valuables, personal property, important papers, the residence, vacation homes and other properties.
- Inventory all assets and arrange for appraisal of items.
- Determine liquidity needs. Gather all bookkeeping records. Review investment portfolio. Sell assets as appropriate.
- Pay valid claims against the estate. Reject improper claims and defend the estate if necessary.
- Pay any state and federal taxes that may be due.
- File income tax returns for the decedent and the estate.
- Determine whether the estate qualifies for “special use valuation” under the tax laws Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 2032A, the qualified family-owned business interest deduction (IRC 2057), or deferral of estate taxes (IRC 6161 or 6166).
- If the surviving spouse is not a U.S. citizen, consider a qualified domestic trust to defer the payment of federal estate taxes.
- File federal estate tax return and state death and/or inheritance tax return. (Not applicable in all states).
- Prepare and maintain statement of all receipts and disbursements. Pay attorneys’ fees and executor’s fees. Assist the attorney in defending the estate if challenged.
- Allocate specific bequests and the remaining assets. Obtain tax releases and receipts as directed by the court. Establish a testamentary trust (or “pour over” into a living trust), where appropriate.
- Prepare informal family agreement.
- Prepare audit notices and statement of proposed distribution.
- File schedule of distribution.
- We, or your own attorney, will help you understand how to accomplish all of these responsibilities.
It’s always best to become educated of this role and its responsibilities in advance when possible and anticipated. The purpose of this checklist is to help you to understand what an executor is and to list most of the general duties you would be asked to accomplish. It’s intended to be extensive for your understanding but not all inclusive. All estates are unique. I’ll be anxious to assist and help guide you to a strong understanding of this process.
I’m easy to reach and speak with and look forward to helping you with your future role as executor and sharing more about our company and Estate Maximization and Planning with you.
You can and should keep it in your family…
P.S. The effort you expend will be rewarded with ideas and perspectives that will help enable you and your family to preserve its wealth long into the future. After all, they are your assets. You worked hard and deserve to keep them in your family!
To expand the bottom line value of your estate and dictate where the assets go, you’ll want an Estate Maximization Plan…
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