Whether because you are creating your own estate or because someone else has named you as one, you will undoubtedly need to know what an Executor is and what the duties and responsibilities that go along with the position are. All too often people make the mistake of naming an Executor in their Last Will and Testament without giving much thought to the appointment, often with disastrous results.
When an individual creates a Last Will and Testament a number of important decisions must be made. Although many of those decisions will focus on the distribution of estate assets after the death of the Testator, other decisions are included as well, such as who to appoint as the Executor of the Will. Contrary to what many people believe, the Executor is not just a “figurehead”. In fact, the choice of Executor can lead to a relatively smooth and successful probate of the estate or to a long, drawn out and costly probate process. To ensure that you make the right choice when you create your Will, or to make sure that you fulfill the position successfully if someone appoint you, it helps to have a better understanding of what the Executor actually does. Executor duties and responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Initiating probate – soon after the death of the decedent the legal process of probating the estate must begin. The Executor must prepare and file the documents needed to begin probate.
- Estate assets – locate, inventory, and value all assets owned by the decedent at the time of death.
- Notifying creditors – either personally or by publication all creditors of the estate must be given notice of the probate of the estate.
- Paying creditors – all claims submitted by creditors must be reviewed and either paid or denied.
- Litigating challenges or claims— if a challenge to the Will is filed, or a creditor appeals a denial of a claim the Executor must defend the estate throughout the ensuing litigation.
- Selling assets – often, estate assets must be sold to satisfy claims or to create the required distribution of assets.
- Preparing taxes – federal and state estate taxes must be filed and any debt paid before probate can be concluded.
- Transferring assets – all legal steps must be taken to ensure that assets are properly transferred to the proper beneficiary or heir of the estate.
As you can see, the job of an Executor can be time consuming and complicated. Although most Executors retain the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to assist throughout the process, the Executor is ultimately responsible for the probate of the estate which is why care should be taken when appointing an Executor.
If you have additional questions or concerns about appointing an Executor or fulfilling the duties of one if you have been appointed, contact the experienced South Carolina estate planning attorneys at Kuhn & Kuhn Law Firm by calling 843-577-3700 to schedule your appointment.