Legal Questions? / Legal Answers!


Executor Duties Listed

"You are a special person. The strong one that is usually counted on. But this new position you find yourself in now that your older, might be new to you. Not knowing what to do first as the Executor, while you yourself are grieving... is not easy. I hope these suggestions will help you pass the whole process. One thing I have noticed is that no matter the dollar amount involved is or if real estate is involved, it takes approx. a year to finish up a will.

1. Take Control of Assets. - As the Executor you are responsible for protecting and managing the decedent's assets, such as cash, insurance, securities, jewelry, art, etc.), you should take control of them right away. If a Basic Vital Statistic Information Form is with the copy of the will that should also contain user names and passwords. You should collect the wallet or pocketbook, any locked boxes, the cellphone, any collectibles. etc...and gather up all paperwork you can find and put it all in a bag to be gone through later.

You are under no legal obligation to inform the bank of the decedent's death. If you have a Debt Card and the pin number you should go to the bank as soon as circumstances allow, make no mention of the death, and take out any cash you may need to start the process.

There is always a chance that a family member might challenge or question some of your actions. Especially when it comes to money. Don't forget to keep accurate records of all payouts and any incoming monies or checks.

2. Order Copies of the Death Certificate.- To satisfy the verification requirements of insurance companies and other parties, ask the funeral home to order from the State several copies of the decedent's death certificate.

3. Gather All Important Documents. The decedent's financial and other records must be gathered for the purposes of probating the estate and preparing the decedent's and the estate's income tax returns. This includes all bills that might still carry a balance and still be owed money from the "Estate".

4. This List Includes Most Documents And Pieces Of Information That Are Considered Important.

a. Automobile titles
b. Bank statements
c. Business records (if self-employed)
d. Check register (current year)
e. Contracts
f. Life insurance policies and annuities
g. Notes payable and receivable
h. Pension information
i. Employment information
j. Real property deeds
k. Retirement account statements
l. Securities statements and stock certificates
m.Tax return source documents (current year)
n. Tax returns (last three years)
o. Trust agreement
p. Unpaid bills
q. Will


5. Contact Insurance Companies.

You will need to contact each insurance company that insured the decedent's life or provided endowment or annuity benefits to the decedent. Each company will have its own requirements for payment of death benefits, although all will require a certified copy of the death certificate. Some may also require you to submit the original policy to them before they will pay the death benefit, while others will instruct you to destroy the policy after the death benefit is paid.

6. Contact Other Companies.

Contact all banks, credit unions, brokerage companies or other companies where the decedent had accounts, investments or any other financial interest. Each will have certain requirements for collecting the funds owned by the decedent.

7. Select an Attorney.

Very simple probates may be handled without the help of an attorney, but they are rare. Even in those instances, you should at least contact the attorney who prepared the decedent's will, if for no other reason than to review any documents that the attorney may have in the decedent's file.

If you decide to hire an attorney to handle the probate, you are not obligated to hire the one who prepared the decedent's will. Virtually any attorney can prepare a simple will, but it is the experienced probate attorney who can efficiently perform most of the administrative, notification and information-gathering functions described in this article.

Like all other expenses associated with managing the decedent's affairs, attorney fees and legal costs are paid from the funds of the estate.

8. Open Probate.

Despite the many horror stories and myths often associated with probate, it is generally not the arduous, complicated ordeal that many people assume it to be.

Simply described, probate is the legal process by which claims against the estate are settled, and the decedent's remaining property is distributed in accordance with the instructions contained in his or her will, all under the supervision of the probate court.

To open the probate, you acting alone or through the estate's attorney submit the decedent's will to the Superior Court of the county where the decedent lived, and file an "Application for Probating of Will and for Appointment of Personal Representative." In almost all cases, this can be completed without the need for a court hearing. After you are appointed, you can perform official acts on behalf of the estate.

9. Notify Creditors.

All creditors of the estate - mortgage holders, credit card companies, anyone to whom the decedent owed money - should be immediately notified in writing. Creditors have four months from the date you notified them to file claims, and the sooner you inform them of the death, the sooner the probate can be closed.

After all creditors have filed their claims, you pay them using the funds of the estate, in the following order of priority:
Administrative and legal costs, including reasonable compensation to you for serving as PR.
Reasonable funeral expenses.
Debts and taxes with preference under federal law.
Reasonable and necessary medical and hospital bills.
Debts and taxes with preference under state law.
All other claims.
If the total allowed claims exceed the assets of the estate, creditors are paid a pro rata share, by category. For example, if there are sufficient assets to satisfy 100% of claims in categories 1 through 5 but only 25% of claims in category 6, all creditors in category 6 will receive 25% of their claims. In this situation, devisees and heirs may not receive anything of monetary value.

If you disallow a creditor's claim, the creditor may sue the estate in Superior Court. The probate will not be closed until the court rules on the lawsuit or until you and the creditor have reached a settlement.

10. File Tax Returns and Pay Taxes.

You are responsible for filing three different types of tax returns on behalf of the estate:
The decedent's last individual tax return, covering the period from January 1 to the date of death. This return is due on April 15 of the year following death.
A fiduciary tax return, for income earned by the estate between the date of death and the closing of probate.
An estate tax return, for estates with greater than $5.49 million (for 2017) in net worth.
You should not take lightly the responsibility of filing tax returns for the estate. The government can sue a PR for unpaid taxes if the PR had the power to pay them.
Distribute Remaining Assets.

After you have paid all valid creditor claims, taxes, and legal and other administrative costs, you then distribute the decedent's assets in accordance with the will. (Undesignated assets are usually sold.)
Report on the Estate's Status.

You have the duty to provide an annual accounting of the estate's assets and liabilities until the estate is closed. This accounting is provided to all devisees and is not necessarily filed with the court.
Close the Probate.

After the court has ruled the will valid and you have resolved all claims, you will pay all valid claims and costs of administration, and distribute the estate's assets to the devisees in accordance with the instructions in the will. The probate can then be closed, and your appointment ends.

There are two ways to close the probate: (1) formally, through which you provide a final accounting to all devisees and the court and ask the court to close the probate and terminate your appointment; and (2) informally, through which you make a final report to devisees and file a closing statement with the court.

If no one objects within 12 months of the filing with the court (from devisees or creditors), the probate is closed and you are released from liability.



If you would like to comment feel free to e-mail me at

smtracy8@gmail.com


My Final Thought...

"I would ask you to please remember, my knowledge is from helping others and doing the work involved to help them with their cases. I am NOT a Lawyer. I really enjoy exploring all the angles of any legal situation one finds themselves in. I also enjoy helping those that have been wronged or just have given up. When I help others it fuels my desire to learn more. I hope this website helps you to understand how and where to seek help. How to involve yourself with your Attorney and help them with your case. Hopefully you will learn a thing or two that helps you in your own struggles. To me, some of the laws seems simple. Almost common sense. I always start at the end and work my way back. What is the worst thing that could happen to you? Spending time in jail? Paying a fine? Having to report to a Probation Officer? Go to the end. That is where you start. Once you know what the end result might be, It makes it a bit easier to focus on what needs to be done and what you can live with as far as a plea agreement"