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What are the main tasks of an executor?

You’ll be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that their final wishes are carried out and that all beneficiaries receive their inheritance.

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Being an executor is no walk in the park. When someone close to you has passed and named you their estate executor, you’ll be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that their final wishes are carried out and that all beneficiaries receive their inheritance. And if someone’s affairs are in less than stellar order before they pass, you’ll have to sort through it all to ensure that all loose ends are tied up by the time the estate is settled.

That’s why it’s so important to know what the main responsibilities of an executor are, so no one goes into the role blind. From submitting the deceased person's will to probate court to dealing with beneficiaries, this article will explain everything you need to know so that you can go into your appointed role with confidence.

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Who Can Be An Estate Executor?

You don't need any previous experience or be a financial or legal professional to serve as an estate executor in Arizona. To be appointed, you must be at least 18 years old and deemed of sound mind so that the courts cannot deem you unfit to serve. More often than not, a family member or close friend of the will creator is appointed, as they will have the best interests of the deceased at heart.

Before agreeing to become an executor, you should consider the decision carefully. The tasks can be a time drain and you may have to deal with disputes from heirs and any potential co-executors. There are also personal liability risks involved in being an executor. You will need to arrange for outstanding taxes from the estate and the estate holder to be paid before distributing assets to beneficiaries.

Duties of An Executor

An estate executor in Arizona, also referred to as a personal representative, is an individual appointed by the testator (creator of the will) or a judge. They are responsible for ensuring that the wishes of the testator are followed correctly and that all estate assets are distributed correctly and financial obligations are met. If you are named as the executor your duties will vary, but will typically involve the tasks set out below.

Locating the Will

Your first responsibility as an estate executor is to find the will. Ideally, the deceased will have shared this information with you prior to their passing, but if this wasn't possible the first port of call should be the deceased's attorney. If you are not sure who their attorney is, ask friends and family or look through the deceased's paperwork if possible. As a last resort, you could publish a notice in the area's legal newspaper asking for the lawyer in possession of the will to get in touch. If there’s no will, then the deceased is said to have died intestate, and the distribution of their assets will follow court guidelines.

Filing the Will at Probate Court

When filing a will at the local probate court in order to have it validated, you will usually only need to follow the informal probate process when applying for probate. However, you may need to open formal probate if there are disputes about estate settlement.

Contact the Beneficiaries Named in the Will

When you are appointed with the role of estate executor, you will have 30 days to notify the beneficiaries named in the will. In your communication to each party, you will need to include a copy of a document known as the Order to Personal Representative. This document outlines your duties and responsibility as estate executor. The beneficiaries will then contact you to claim what is rightfully theirs. Once the will has gone through probate and all outstanding debt and taxes have been paid, it will also be the estate executor’s responsibility to distribute all assets to the beneficiaries.

Creating an Inventory of Assets

Another responsibility of an estate executor is to locate assets belonging to the estate, create an inventory and submit a list of these assets to the probate court. You’ll also have to appraise the value of the assets. This must be done within 90 days of your appointment as executor. It will also be your responsibility to manage and maintain these assets until they have been distributed to beneficiaries or sold. If assets such as real estate need to be sold in order to cover outstanding estate debts, then an executor has to oversee that sale.

Publishing a Notice to Creditors

If the will is being probated, you will need to create and publish a notice in the newspaper to creditors. This notice is to let them know that the testator has died and that they should make a claim for any amount owed. You should also send a notice to any known creditors. These debt payments will come from the estate. According to Arizona regulations, creditors have four months to submit their claims from the date they receive their notice.

Arranging Payment of Taxes and Expenses

You will also be responsible for paying any applicable taxes and ensuring creditors are paid from the estate. These should be made in a specific order, as follows:

  • Any expenses associated with the administration of the will. This includes your executor fees if you are accepting them and any lawyer fees.
  • Funeral expenses.
  • Any medical expenses related to the last illness of the deceased.
  • State and Federal taxes and debts.
  • Any other taxes and debts.

Final Word

Being an estate executor is challenging but it can be a rewarding experience, too. Closing the last chapter of the life of a loved one can help you to feel useful and find some distraction in a time of grief. If you’re finding yourself struggling with the responsibilities of an estate executor, we’re here to help. Get in touch for a free consultation with ClearEstate today.

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