What it Means to be an Executor
Imagine this … you’ve been nominated as the executor of your best friend’s will. You feel honored and at the same time begin to worry about what this means and how do you uphold the responsibilities of your potential future duties.
In legal terms, an executor is responsible for settling a deceased person’s estate. In other words, you need to probate the estate. Your duties will include taking an inventory of all this person’s possessions, arranging for appraisals, paying taxes, settling all debts, and distributing assets. Your utmost responsibility is to act in the best interests of the deceased and follow the wishes expressed in the will (assuming there is a will).
Being an executor can be a lot of work. There are time sensitive details to follow up on and you may also need to help defend the terms of the will against challenges either from heirs or outside parties. You don’t have to go through the process alone though … you may seek professional help such as, attorneys to help with probate or an accountant to help file taxes, and some of these expenses may be charged to the estate.
4 Basic Steps to Probate
- To initiate the probate process, you must file an application to appear before the probate court in the county in which the deceased person lived. This is the formal process of proving the authenticity of the will and confirming your assignment as executor. When you appear in court, you should bring the original signed will and certified copy of the death certificate. Also, be prepared to pay any court costs (which you can then charge to the deceased estate).
- Once the court authorizes you as the executor of the estate, you should notify all parties, including heirs and those named as beneficiaries of the will that you have applied to the court and you will be managing the estate.
- Once the court validates the will, you may begin to pay taxes and other claims against the estate and distribute assets to beneficiaries.
- To finalize the estate, you will need to file papers with the probate court. You may need to show the court that you’ve sent notices to all concerned parties, you filed and paid all estate debts and federal estate taxes within nine months of the date of death, and you distributed the remaining assets to designated recipients. One of the best ways to prove that you distributed assets according to the will is to ask each beneficiary to sign a receipt.
Once the probate court recognizes you completed these steps, the court will release you from further responsibility as executor.
Small and simple probate will typically take six months to complete in most states. Larger or more complicated estates may take a year or longer to settle.
Hopefully, we’ve taken the mystery out of the probate process and provided thoughtful steps to follow. And, remember … you don’t have to go it alone. Consult an attorney, accountant or professional advisor to lend a helping hand.
Rupa Mehta is the President of RHM Financial Group, located at 5600 Mariner Street, Suite 120, Tampa, Florida 33609. Rupa Mehta can be reached at 813-298-6317.