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What are the responsibilities of an executor?

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2024 | PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION - Estate Administration

Writing a last will can be an effective way to provide for loved ones and distribute wealth after death. After a person passes on, an executor carries out their will.

The individual who creates the will, also known as the testator, may appoint their own executor. If a person dies without appointing one, a court will do so in their stead.

The duties of an executor

Executors are crucial for individuals and their beneficiaries because after the testator passes on, they must:

  • Create an inventory: One of their duties is to create an inventory of assets to be distributed. These include real property and intangible estate, like stock and bonds. They should also identify if the deceased owned the assets separately, in joint tenancy or as community property.
  • Identify the deceased’s beneficiaries: The executor also identifies the beneficiaries or the entities that will inherit the estate. Heirs can be based on the terms of a will, state law or other estate planning documents, such as living trusts or joint tenancy agreements.
  • Determine the appropriate transfer process for the assets: They are also responsible for determining the proper administration process for the estate. After taking inventory of the assets and identifying beneficiaries, they must decide how to transfer the property.

There are two different ways to distribute assets: a simplified transfer or a formal probate. In California, the executor must initiate a formal probate case if the estate’s value exceeds $166,250.

Challenges in administering an estate

Sometimes, executors face challenges when distributing the testator’s assets. For example, identifying the right beneficiaries can sometimes be complicated, even if there is a will. The deceased may not have updated their will, or a beneficiary in the legal document may have already died.

Additionally, they may get confused about whether the estate will need to go to probate court. This decision depends on several factors, like the type of property and the amount of money involved.

An updated and detailed will may help prevent these issues and streamline the administration process. An estate planning attorney helps clients prepare detailed wills and provide for their families after they pass away.