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What Is a Will Executor?

Learn About the Responsibilities and Duties of a Will Executor

An Executor is an individual named in a decedent’s Will who is merely nominated to be the person administering the decedent’s Estate. An Executor is named/nominated in a Will, but they cannot perform the duties of an Executor or legally represent the decedent’s Estate, until the Will is admitted to Probate, and until the court appoints the named Executor to act as such.

This process is started by the filing of a Petition for Probate. The Executor’s appointment is official only when the court issues a document known as “Letters Testamentary,” or simply, “Letters.”

Therefore, getting appointed by the court is the first step a named Executor must take.

When the Decedent does not leave a Will (and thus, there is no named “Executor”) the court will appoint an Estate Representative, known as Administrator, or Personal Representative.

Oftentimes, where there is no Will, the Personal Representative needs to file a Bond before the court would appoint him or her to serve.

Whether the Estate Representative is called an Executor or an Administrator, he or she can only represent the Estate after the court issues the aforementioned “LETTERS.”

Without the Letters, the Executor (or Administrator) cannot act on behalf of the decedent’s Estate. This means that they cannot speak with banks or mortgage companies, gain access to bank accounts, transact on behalf of a decedent’s business, sell the decedent’s real property, collect receivables, etc., until such Executor (or Administrator) are appointed by the Court.

Have questions? Contact us online or call (310) 935-0706 for an initial phone consultation. Reach out today.

What Happens After the Letters Testamentary Are Issued?

The date the Letters are issued is a very important date, because it starts the clock on many deadlines, including that of any creditors’ ability to file a claim against the Estate.

Once the Estate Representative has formally been appointed and Letters have been issued by the court, a number of duties and liabilities are imposed on him or her. In fact, one of the documents which an Estate Representative must file with the court is named “Duties and Liabilities of the Personal Representative,” which the Estate Representative signs, acknowledging that he or she has full knowledge, understanding, and commitment to abide by such duties, and is fully aware of all the liabilities which the position places on him or her.

As such, the role of the Estate Representative is a very important and responsible one. They are now able to:

  • Perform on the decedent’s contracts
  • Notify and pay the Estate creditors
  • Notify certain government agencies about the court process
  • Access decedent’s accounts
  • Lease or sell Estate real property
  • Pay a mortgage
  • Pay last illness and funeral expenses, debts, and obligations

In short, the Estate Representative is able to settle the Estate and ultimately apply for a decree of distribution, directing how the remaining Estate assets are to be distributed before the Estate can be closed.

Depending on what assets comprise the decedent’s Estate, this process can take anywhere from thirteen to sixteen months, or longer.

Responsibilities of the Estate Representative

Some major milestones that the Estate Representative is responsible for, include:

  • Notifying and paying all Estate creditors
  • Preparing and filing with the court an inventory of the Estate
  • Maintaining the Estate property income-producing throughout the Probate administration process (or selling real property)
  • Winding up or selling a decedent’s business
  • Filing personal and Estate income tax returns
  • Renting or selling real property
  • Filing documents with the County Assessor regarding property tax reassessment (or applicable exclusions)

The Estate Representative is also responsible for filing a final Account with the court describing all that has been accomplished during the Probate administration and what assets are on hand for distribution. Upon a hearing and an approval of such Account, the court will issue an Order directing the distribution of the Estate, which the Estate Representative must follow to deliver the Estate assets to its intended Beneficiaries or heirs at law, and file Receipts on Distribution with the court, before the court can “discharge” the Estate Representative from his or her duties and close the case.

In the event of litigation (such as a Will contest), it is the Estate Representative’s duty to defend the Estate in court against such legal claims. If litigation erupts, the length of the Estate administration is usually much, much longer before final distribution can occur.

Fiduciary Duties of the Estate Representative

The Estate Representative occupies the position of a Fiduciary and has a number of duties not only to the court and the Beneficiaries/heirs, but also to the Estate’s creditors and government agencies (including tax authorities, etc.).

Call the Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, PC Today!

If you have been named Executor in a Will and need assistance, the Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, PC can help. Call to schedule a consultation.

Contact us online or call (310) 935-0706 for a consultation.

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