What to consider before becoming an estate executor

Estate settlement may be straightforward under simpler, more fortunate circumstances. However, in certain cases, it may turn into a long and painstaking process.

Posted on October 11, 2021 by Alex Gauthier
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The loss of a close friend, relative or partner is a harrowing experience. If they’ve left behind a will and you’ve been named an executor of your loved one’s estate, you’re dealing with grief amidst many administrative and legal tasks, the majority of which you’re probably facing for the first time.

Estate settlement may be straightforward under simpler, more fortunate circumstances. However, in certain cases, it may turn into a long and painstaking process.

Understanding what being an estate executor entails will aid you in making the decision of whether to accept the role or not. Let's have a look at the key duties of estate settlement.

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What are the Primary Responsibilities of an Estate Executor?

It is the responsibility of the estate executor to act in good faith and in the interests of the estate. Their duty is to distribute the remaining financial assets of the deceased in compliance with the will and with local California laws.

Submitting the will


An estate executor’ first order of business would be to submit the deceased’s will to the probate court, so that the probate process can begin. They will probably also need an official death certificate to present to the court and to insurances and banks.

Finding and Gathering Assets of the Estate


People may have financial assets scattered around in various places. Not everyone keeps paperwork for their properties or financial assets neatly in one place. The estate executor will have to do the detective work of tracking down these assets and finding the relevant paperwork for it.

Settling Unpaid Debts and Taxes


Our loved ones may leave unpaid debts and taxes behind. Settling these debts and notifying creditors becomes the responsibility of the estate executor. An estate executor will also have to file a final tax return on the deceased’s behalf, as well as report any income tax if the estate generates income during the probate process (such as through investments).

Taking Care of Continuous Expenses


Life goes on, even when someone dies. Bills, insurance payments, and other ongoing expenses will need to be paid in order to keep real estate property and other aspects of the estate going. Although the bills are paid through the estate, the estate executor will be responsible for managing these payments.

Notifying Relevant People About the Death


This can involve notifying banks and government-provided services about the death of the testator. Estate executors may also wish to cancel subscriptions, phone contracts, and utilities such as internet services.

Overseeing the Distribution of Assets to Beneficiaries of the Estate


Another responsibility of estate executors is to oversee the distribution of the estate’s assets according to the will.

What to Keep in Mind Before Agreeing to be an Estate Executor?

In fortunate cases, estate settlement can be a relatively simple process. However, in certain cases, it may turn into a long-winded conflict involving many years of having to attend probate court. This is often the case when a will is disputed, or when an estate’s taxes become overly complicated. In the state of California, it is fully within a nominee's right to reject the role of estate executor.

Deciding whether to accept or reject can be a troublesome position to be in. While, of course, we all want to respect the wishes of the deceased, it can sometimes be outside the realm of an individual's capabilities to deal with. If you decide to reject the role, a probate court judge will assign the role to another person.

If you feel that the beneficiaries of the will or family members of the deceased are likely to contest the will, leading to a more troublesome process than you can handle, you might wish to reject it.

If you're extremely grief-stricken and feel that you're not in a healthy enough state of mind to be able to handle it, you may want to pass the responsibility on to another.

You may also feel that your work schedule or family obligations do not allow you the time to properly deal with estate settlement matters.

Settling your loved one’s estate is an important responsibility: You’re carrying out their last wishes and ensuring everything they owned gets taken care of in the way they envisioned it. By planning ahead and relying on the help of an experienced partner like ClearEstate, you’ll be equipped to navigate this process more smoothly and efficiently.