Estate executor refers to a person who settles an estate of a deceased person. Many people appoint a relative to this position, while others retain the services of a probate attorney or estate planner. Anyone aged 18 and over can be designated to manage estate settlement proceedings, but this is an important role and the designated agent should be good with finances and capable of making difficult decisions.
The estate executor is responsible for multiple duties which can range from making funeral arrangements to selling real estate or business assets owned by the decedent. Much depends on the type of inheritance property, estate value, decedent's marital status, and estate planning measures taken prior to death.
Probating an Estate
All estates must undergo the probate process unless the decedent established a trust. Assets placed into a trust are exempt from probate, but the estate must still be settled. Trusts are managed by a Trustee who is designated within the decedent's last will and testament.
Two types of probate exist - testate and intestate. Testate refers to estates where the decedent executed a last will, while intestate refers to estates where decedents die without leaving a Will. Intestate estates require additional time to settle because an estate executor must be appointed through probate court and rightful heirs must be located.
During the probate process the estate executor is required to perform specific duties. These can include paying outstanding debts, securing personal property, obtaining property appraisals for valuable assets, filing a final tax return, and distributing inheritance property according to directives within the Will or state probate law.
Most estate administrators require assistance from a probate lawyer. Attorneys can submit the decedent's last Will or death certificate through court to open the probate case. They can review documents and property transfers to ensure they comply with state laws. Attorneys may be required to negotiate creditor debt or settle family disputes. Attorney fees are paid through the decedent's estate.
Determining Value & Transferring Assets
When decedents own valuable property such as real estate, motor vehicles, financial portfolios, or business assets, the estate executor must obtain date-of-death values which are recorded for estate tax purposes.
In order to transfer property, date-of-death value forms are submitted to the county tax assessor to validate the decedent does not owe outstanding taxes. If taxes are due, the estate must present payment before the property can be distributed to named beneficiaries.
Estate executors are compensated for their duties through the estate. The amount of compensation is regulated by state probate laws. Some states use a pay scale based on a percentage of the estate, while others pay a flat fee or hourly wage. Estate executors must keep a time sheet to present to the court when the estate settles.
It is best to discuss the designation of estate executor with the person before appointing them within the Will. In some cases, the designated agent is unable or unwilling to perform duties. When this occurs another estate executor must be appointed through court and will hinder the progress of probate. It is a good idea to designate a primary and secondary estate executor within the Will. If the primary administrator cannot fulfill duties, the second administrator can quickly assume the role.
People often procrastinate about estate planning. However, dying without having a last Will in place prolongs the probate process and adds additional stress to loved ones. While no one enjoys planning for their death, executing a final Will is not a difficult or expensive process.
Several options exist for drafting a last will and testament. The most common way is to work with a lawyer or estate planner. Individuals with small estates can purchase pre-formatted Wills from office supply stores or download forms via the Internet. Some banks and credit unions offer discounted estate planning to their customers. Take advantage of available options and execute your final Will today. In the end, you will be giving your loved ones the greatest gift of all by having your estate organized.