When someone passes away, his or her assets must be legally transferred to living beneficiaries through a process called probate. The person who is responsible for taking care of the decedent’s estate during this process is called an executor. The executor will make sure that all the debts and liabilities are paid from the decedent’s estate before the rest of the assets are distributed among the living beneficiaries.
The Executor’s Role
Generally speaking, probate can last somewhere between a few months and several years. The more complicated the estate is, the longer the case will take. The executor is the person who is responsible for managing the estate during the whole process. This will usually involve several court filings, court appearances, and even gaining approval from the probate court before taking certain actions.
The executor will also have to take into account the needs of beneficiaries and heirs, as well as any professionals who may need to be paid from the estate. Though probate laws vary from state to state, the process generally occurs in the same order no matter where the estate is located.
The first official duty of the executor is to submit the decedent’s last will and testament to the court. Following submission, the executor must attend a court hearing where the judge will inform the executor of the validity and legality of the will. In addition, the hearing generally allows others to contest the will if they have an interest in the will and feel that it’s not valid. In these cases, the contestant will need to file a separate lawsuit and prove to the court that the will is invalid.
Appointing an Executor
Decedents will often name an executor in their will, as they will typically have some idea of who they want to take care of their affairs. Unless the other beneficiaries object, this person will be named the executor of the estate.
If there is no will, however, or an executor has not been appointed in the will, the judge will most often choose a close family member to fulfill the role of the executor. Most states have specific laws regarding which family members may qualify, and in what order.
Once the executor has been chosen, the judge will grant the authority to act in the interest of the estate through letters of administration. Also known as letters of testamentary, these documents are necessary to provide professional companies – such as banks or insurance companies – proof that they can act on the estate’s behalf.
If you have been pointed as executor of someone’s estate, it may help to talk with a probate lawyer, like a probate lawyer in Cherry Hill, NJ, to help you with the process.
Thanks to Klenk Law for their insight into what the executor of an estate is.