For most people, being named the executor (or personal representative) of an estate is an honor. However, the job comes with many unforeseen challenges and obligations. The difficulty of the role generally correlates with the size of the estate. However, all executors must follow the same legal requirements regardless of the estate size. To fully understand the role of an executor you should review the following list of expectations.
The main purpose of appointing an executor is to have someone who will manage the estate until the closing. Executors are obligated to gather and protect the decedent's assets. A person acting as executor is also responsible for ensuring that all the debts of the estate are paid. Finally, executors are charged with the duty of distributing the remaining assets according to the will.
Fiduciary Duties of Executors
As a fiduciary, the executor owes a duty of loyalty to the estate and its beneficiaries. Fiduciaries are expected to act honestly, carefully and in good faith. They are prohibited from performing self-serving actions. An executor must also use reasonable care in managing the estate to the best extent possible. If an executor fails to meet this standard, he or she can be subjected to legal liability.
Starting Out as an Executor
The executor has some important steps to take at the beginning of the process. First, the executor is required to file the will with the probate court. He or she will also need to decide whether the assets will need to go through probate. This usually depends on whether there are joint assets, and how much certain assets are worth. In Utah, probate is required if there is real property involved, or the total of all assets exceeds $100,000.
The next step is for the executor to locate and take control of the decedent's assets. As any probate lawyer will tell you, it is important to decide whether to sell assets to satisfy debts at this stage. Selling securities or real estate can take time. The executor has a fiduciary duty to ensure this process is carried out as efficiently as possible.
The last initial step to take is to determine who the beneficiaries are. It is necessary to locate these people to comply with certain probate notice requirements. It is also important to know whether or not the beneficiaries survived the decedent, and what to do if they are no longer alive.
The Daily Duties of an Executor
There are many day-to-day activities that the executor must carry out. This can include closing out accounts, paying creditors and sending documents to certain government agencies. The executor will also have to set up and maintain a bank account for the estate. Furthermore, it is crucial that a final tax filing is submitted to terminate the decedent's tax liability.
Closing Out The Estate
In the end the executor must make sure the assets are appropriately distributed. Executors should take care in performing the distribution at the correct time. If the distribution occurs too early, the executor can be held personally liable for losses. This usually occurs when unknown creditors make claims against the estate after the distribution has occurred. An estate lawyer can help you decide when to take this step.If you need more information about Utah's probate process contact an estate attorney at Spencer and Jensen, PLLC. The firm's probate attorney can review your probate checklist or assist with any other estate issue.