Being named Executor in a will in California is an honor, but it comes with significant responsibilities, which are often confusing.It is important to note that starting the probate process is an important step for executors. Although you have been named Executor in a will document, you have no duties or powers until the court appoints you as such. First, you must file a Probate petition with the court. Upon receiving an order for probate and having the Will accepted by the probate court, you will receive the legal authority to act as Executor, which is also called Letters Testamentary. Once your role as Executor has been granted, the following are among your legal obligations. Your responsibility as the administrator of the decedent’s estate is to protect the best interests of the beneficiaries. Executors in California are bound by a strict fiduciary duty. So, you must conduct yourself fairly, honestly, and impartially in the administration of the estate, and work for the benefit of the heirs, and not your own. The Executor may be held personally liable if there is a breach of their fiduciary duty. You should consult an attorney familiar with estate planning and probate in order to ensure that you handle the decedent’s affairs appropriately.
HOW TO CARRY OUT THE DUTIES OF AN EXECUTOR
You have a lot of responsibilities as an Executor, but you do not have to fulfill them all on your own. To perform your duties responsibly, you have the option to hire professionals at the estate’s expense.In addition to hiring an attorney with estate funds, you can also hire property managers, accountants, insurance brokers, and other professionals. It is much easier to perform your duties when you are surrounded by professionals who are adept at handling estate administration.
Probate Court Approval & Estate Appraisal
When you are appointed Executor, you must remember to obtain court orders and to adhere to strict timelines. A court-approved appraisal of the estate (called an inventory & appraisal) must be completed within 120 days. In order to ensure that the probate appraiser has enough time to perform the appraisal within that deadline, an executor should begin the process as soon as possible.
Dealing with Creditors Claims
According to California law, the primary purpose of probate is to ensure that creditors are paid before any funds go to beneficiaries.
Therefore, it is the legal duty of an Executor to provide notice of the probate to known creditors. Each creditor must receive a copy of the creditor claim form from the executor. In turn, they must submit their claims to the probate court.
TYPICAL DUTIES OF AN EXECUTOR
- Identifying all estate assets and ensuring their value does not decline.
- Making regular payments on debts such as mortgages and utilities.
- Paying all taxes owed, including income and property taxes
- Managing daily tasks such as ending leases and contracts, notifying government agencies, and many others.
- Managing the distribution of assets.
- Identifying beneficiaries and keeping them informed of estate progress.
- Creating estate bank accounts as necessary to ensure the estate continues to receive income, and there is a bank account for estate proceeds (such as the sell of a house)
- Paying the required expenses to maintain estate assets.
ENGAGE LEGAL COUNSEL TO HELP YOU IN YOUR DUTY AS AN EXECUTOR
If you are an executor who needs assistance in performing your duties while avoiding liability, you should consult a team of attorneys that specializes in Probate.