10 Duties of the Executor
1. Obtain a copy of the will, then file it with the local probate court
Usually the executor is the person who is in charge of locating, reading and understanding the will. Even if you find out that probate isn’t necessary, the will has to be filed with the probate court. In this step, the executor should begin to determine who inherits the property.
2. Notify all banks, all credit card companies, and government agencies of the decedent’s death
The decedent’s bank(s), credit card companies as well as The Social Security Administration are a few examples of who should be notified as soon as possible of the death.
3. Decide which type of probate is necessary
Probate may not always be necessary, you will want to contact an attorney who specializes in probate and trusts for this because inheritance laws may facilitate the passing of certain properties without probate (such as property held jointly by a husband and wife). If you do not have an attorney already, then contact me at the email or number below. Additionally, the value of the estate may allow it to pass through an expedited process. If probate is required, you need to file a petition with the court to be appointed an executor, again this is something that your probate attorney can help with.
4. Represent the estate in court
As an executor of the estate, you might be required to appear in court on behalf of the estate.
5. Pay all the bills, then set up a bank account for incoming funds
If the decedent is owed money such as incoming paychecks, this account can hold them. An executor should be on the lookout for mortgages, utilities, taxes and similar bills that still need to be paid throughout the probate process.
6. Itemize, then file an inventory of the estate’s assets with the court
Once you have itemized an inventory of the estate’s assets, you will probably need to file them with the court. Your attorney will know if this is necessary, but in most states, the court requires the executor to submit a detailed inventory of the assets in the probate estate.
7. Secure and maintain the property until it can be distributed or sold
You should secure and keep up the decedent’s property until it is distributed to heirs or sold, if the property needs to be sold at all. Also, an executor must be sure to find all personal property in the estate and protect it until distribution.
8. Pay the debt’s and taxes of the estate
State law dictates the procedure for notifying creditors, and the estate must also file income tax returns from the first of the current year until the date of the decedent’s death. If the estate is large enough, there may be state and/or federal estate taxes to pay as well.
9. Distribute assets of the estate
Distribution occurs according to the wishes expressed in the will, or as determined by the court.
10. Dispose of other property
If there is any property left after paying off the estate’s debts and distribution to heirs, the executor is responsible for disposing of it.
Since estates vary greatly in complexity, your executor’s job may be easy or challenging to carry out, and your responsibilities can easily go beyond the 10 basic items in this list. Remember it is your right as an executor to decline the position or resign at any point in the process, but more often all that is needed is sound legal advice. Consulting with an attorney can help you make sure that you’ve properly complied with all your duties.
This list may seem overwhelming, but you are not alone! Count on us to help you as we are Probate Navigators of the Eastern Shore, which means we specialize in helping executors navigate the probate process.
Call us at (410) 251-8233 or (410) 726-2249 or contact us with the form below!
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Contact Loudell and Gee, the Probate Navigators of Eastern Shore Maryland with any and all of your questions.