The Role of an Executor
If you have been appointed as the executor (female — executrix) of someone’s will and you choose to accept the appointment, you act as their personal representative in carrying out the instructions set out in the will. You have a fiduciary duty to act honestly and in good faith when administering the estate.
Following are some matters you need to attend to as an executor:
Step One — Locate the will
Find the latest version of the decedent’s will and any amendments (also known as codicils). You then need to file the will together with the death certificate at the County Register of Wills office so that the will can be probated. An experienced probate attorney can help you with the filing of this paperwork. If the documentation is approved, the Register of Wills issues Letters Testamentary, a document that gives you authority to act as administrator of the estate.
Step Two — Notifications
Notify creditors and beneficiaries of the death of the decedent by sending formal notices as well as by advertising in local newspapers. File a Certification of Notice to Beneficiaries with the Register of Wills.
Step Three — Inventory and valuation
Make a list of all the assets and liabilities of the estate and arrange to have them valued if necessary. Ensure that assets are protected and insured where appropriate. You may need to sell a depreciating asset quickly.
Step Four — Taxes and debts
Pay federal and state taxes. Check that claims are valid and pay them. If the estate is insolvent, i.e. the liabilities exceed the assets, special procedures apply and you pay claims against the estate in a specific statutory order of priority.
Step Five — Distribution
Once you have filed an inventory and accounting with the Register of Wills and received approval to close the estate, you can distribute the remaining assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the will.
The above is only a brief summary of some of the procedures an executor needs to follow. Estate administration is often complicated and in practice there are usually many issues that need to be dealt with. An experienced Pittsburgh probate and estate administration lawyer can help guide you through the process. At Fingeret Law, we have more than 40 years of experience in this area.