Let’s get right to the point: An estate executor’s responsibility to beneficiary is huge! It is a role you need to approach with the highest level of professionalism. It is a task that should bring a sense of pride and accomplishment. Approach it as a final favor on behalf of a loved one.
The Olear Team guides clients through this process regularly. Our personal and professional experience will help you manage your responsibilities as an executor. As a result, we’ve broken down the entire project into a series of smaller, prioritized tasks.
Today we examine the role of the executor. We do this with a step-by-step approach to dispersing the personal property and belongings of an estate. However, it is important to note that if you feel you are not up to accepting the challenges of this role, you do not have to take the position!
If you are named as executor in an individual’s will, you have the option to decline the opportunity. You can do this during the administration process if you feel you cannot complete your responsibilities.
As executor, you have many duties including:
- settling debts
- liquefying assets
- overseeing the distribution of proceeds from the estate to the beneficiaries
The law requires the executor to secure all assets and safeguard the deceased individual’s property and belongings. Expect the entire process to last anywhere from up to seven months to a year or more. The total amount of time depends on the level of effort as well as the complexity of the situation.
Let’s assume that you accept the challenge. This article will help answer the questions and concerns about an estate executor’s responsibility to beneficiary.
An estate executor’s responsibility to beneficiary includes managing the estate in accordance with an individual’s will. You are required to follow the probate rules of the state where the will is filed. Your responsibilities are to protect assets and pay off any debts left behind by the estate as well as properly distribute any remaining property.
The estate executor’s responsibility to beneficiary also includes ensuring that the beneficiary receives anything left to them in the will. Act quickly to inform the beneficiaries that you are the executor. Ensure them you are acting in the best interests of both the deceased individual and the beneficiaries.
Take steps to promptly file the will and secure the estate property. Let everyone know you are taking these initial steps.
Early actions we recommend when real estate is involved, especially when there is significant personal property still located in a dwelling, include:
- changing all locks.
- installing a security system
- installing a sump pump back-up
As part of the fiduciary duty as an executor, you should not do anything that would directly benefit yourself or any other individual at the expense of the beneficiaries. It’s a bad idea for the executor or an immediate family member to purchase the deceased person’s house, especially if there are other beneficiaries. An exception to this is when beneficiaries encourage you to take that action and go to the effort of obtaining a certified appraisal of the property from a properly licensed person. You might put yourself in harm’s way if there are any contentious aspects involved in the situation.
Beneficiaries are entitled to see the will and often request ongoing reports from the executor. Therefore, they are entitled to any information related to administration of the estate and how assets are being spent to settle any outstanding debts.
Early on in the process and soon after you receive your “letters of administration” as the executor, it is a good idea to speak with your attorney. Topics you need to discuss include realistic time frames for working through the process. In addition, we recommend drafting a letter to the beneficiaries setting out the target time frames for completing different stages of the process as they relate to this estate.
These main categories might include:
distribution of possessions to family members
a sale of the remaining personal property
sale of the real estate
opening the estate bank account
developing an inventory of all assets
a time frame for closing the estate and dispersing the liquid assets remaining
The best way to avoid issues with beneficiaries is to communicate with them throughout the process.
You should make your actions as transparent as possible and keep the lines of communication open. It is your best course of action!
An estate executor’s responsibility to beneficiary requires you to settle the estate in a timely fashion. You must do this while following probate laws as defined by the state. Law often requires a waiting period of many months. This gives creditors time to hear about the death and come forward with claims against the estate. It’s important to say this again. Be sure to explain the waiting period to the beneficiaries as it will help to eliminate the impression that you are simply dragging your feet.
The probate court will take action to remove an executor for reasons such as:
- breach of fiduciary duties
- stealing from the estate
- an inability to properly manage the estate, etc.
An executor can consult with an estate attorney, accountant, real estate agent, estate liquidation company or other professionals. Doing so will help ensure that the estate is being properly managed and liquidated. Remember that it is your responsibility to make sure there is enough money to pay the bills of the estate and you must do this before giving any property or belongings to the beneficiaries.
Also, please remember that the entire probate process is something that most people experience only when a beloved friend or family member dies. Emotions can run quite high. Therefore, to avoid hurt feelings, be sure to remain calm and communicate as much as possible while the process moves forward!
If you have any further questions about an estate executor’s responsibility to beneficiary or your role as an executor, reach out to us at (716) 880-4442 or email us at [email protected].
Sources: legalzoom.com, alllaw.com