If you’ve been named executor in a loved one’s will, you might be wondering if you, as executor, have final say in all matters related to the liquidation of the deceased’s property and personal belongings. There is no simple answer to this question. The executor does not “control” the estate. Rather, if you find yourself in this position, you should think of yourself as a fiduciary with an important responsibility to fulfill the deceased’s requests as faithfully as possible.
In fact, according to NYCourts.gov, executors, administrators, or voluntary administrators (depending on the type of estate proceeding), “have a legal duty to act faithfully towards the estate and not put their personal interests ahead of duty.”
What does the executor actually do? The website goes on to state:
“Executors must carry out the wishes of the person who died as stated in the will. Administrators and voluntary administrators must settle the estate according to New York State laws of intestacy.
“Fiduciaries are responsible for protecting the property until all debts and taxes are paid and to promptly and efficiently administer the estate. In general, fiduciaries have three responsibilities:
- Collect, inventory and appraise all the assets of the estate.
- Pay the bills, taxes, estate expenses and creditors of the person who died.
- Transfer property according to the will or, if there is no will, then according to the law.”
In some cases, friends or family of the deceased may feel they have grounds to contest the will. The laws vary state-by-state, but in general, a properly drafted and signed will is very difficult to contest. When faced with these kinds of issues, it’s more important than ever for the executor to keep the deceased’s requests and wishes in mind.
We’ve said before that while being named an executor is an honor, it is also difficult and time-consuming. If you are in this position and find it all a bit overwhelming, please contact an estate attorney and/or an estate liquidator to help facilitate the process.
- In simple terms, the executor oversees disposition of property and possessions. It’s a large responsibility making sure that a person’s last wishes are granted. The executor is responsible for making sure that any debts and creditors that the deceased had are paid off, and that any remaining money or property is distributed according to their wishes.
- While an executor does not have to be a lawyer or a financial expert, the law does require an executor to fulfill his or her duties with the utmost honesty and diligence. The legal term for this is “fiduciary duty.”
- An executor is not entitled to proceeds from the sale of property of the estate, but is often entitled to a fee as compensation for administering the will. Most states mandate that this fee be reasonable given the size or complexity of the will.
- There are many duties that an executor of a will may have to fulfill. These duties could include finding the deceased person’s assets and keeping them safe until they can be properly distributed, deciding if probating the last will and testament in court is necessary, finding and contacting people that were named in a will who are supposed to inherit money or property, making sure the will is filed in the appropriate probate court and wrapping up the deceased’s affairs.
- Other responsibilities may include setting up a bank account for the estate, continuing all necessary payments, paying off debts and creditors, paying final income taxes and ensuring the property distribution of the deceased’s property.
While serving as an executor is not an easy task, it is an honorable endeavor that should be completed to the very best of your ability.
The answer is assessment, examine solutions, declutter and have a written plan. Can you guess the question?
In reality, it’s a question that all of us will one day ponder: When does life require a move to a smaller, safer living space?
Whether that question is being asked by you or a loved one, at some point we all have to stop and look at our long-term comfort and safety. While some people may look forward to the concept of downsizing as they age, others find it extremely difficult to give up the old homestead. Following are four areas to consider in the decision-making process:
• Assessment: Take an honest look at your home and how much of it you actually use. Are you living in a six-room house but only use the kitchen, living room and bedroom on a regular basis? Are the stairs becoming difficult to navigate? Is your home somewhat isolated from family and friends? Assess your living situation honestly by recording your daily activities over an extended period of time. The results may surprise you!
• Examine solutions: If remaining in your home is no longer the best choice, what are your alternatives? There are many options such as a retirement community, condo, apartment or just a smaller house. At this point, it’s crucial to consider your finances and think long term.
• Declutter: Removing possessions that you no longer use can make any home feel free of obstructions and easier to manage on a daily basis. Go through a different room each week and decide if there’s anything that can be sold, donated or disposed of.
• Written plan: Keep a notebook and have a written action plan that helps serve as a timeline for your future. Set some simple goals, such as clean out the garage, interview Realtors or visit apartments. Writing things down can help ease fears and create energy.
By following these four steps, you can take a lot of the stress out of downsizing!