If you are named as executor for a friend’s or relative’s estate, be prepared for a long process. The process can at times be frustrating, but also interesting and informative.
One of the most important duties an executor has in settling an estate is to establish the validity of the Will. This is called probating the Will and there are numerous Affidavits to be prepared and filed with the Court before it will validate the Will.
Along with probating the Will, there are many other duties that an executor has. Some can be done prior to probate being issued and many must wait until the Court has granted probate.
Things that do not require probate are such things as dealing with insurance policies, company pension plans, or retirement savings plans that have a designated beneficiary, or assets that are held jointly with a right of survivorship.
Things that do require probate are such things as dealing with accounts over a particular value (this may be different for each financial institution) and real property held solely in the name of the deceased.
As well as establishing that the Will is valid, the executor has additional duties such as the following:
1. making funeral arrangements;
2. making an inventory of the deceased’s assets;
3. making a list of the deceased’s liabilities;
4. safeguarding the deceased’s assets;
5. completing and filing tax returns;
6. attending to the payment of the estate debts, which includes any income tax owing.
The executor may complete many of his duties relatively quickly; however, sometime they may take many months, or sometimes years, if the Will is challenged. Even simple estates can take several months. Many lawyers will assist the executors and act as an agent for the executor in obtaining probate, or calling in the deceased’s assets.
Executors are entitled to be paid for their services. The maximum amount is 5% of the aggregate value of the estate, but rarely do executors take the maximum. Some executors choose not to take any fee at all if they are a friend or relative. Whether an executor takes a fee, or not, they are entitled to be paid their out-of-pocket expenses. Executors must understand that the job can be time consuming and sometimes frustrating, but it can also be very rewarding once the task has been completed.
If you are the executor of an estate, you may be able to handle it yourself, but your job will be made considerably easier if you find a lawyer you trust who knows his or her way around the business of estates. He or she can do a lot of the work and banks seem to give more weight to a lawyer’s instructions than those of the executor.