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Friday, July 19, 2019

Being the Executor of an Estate

Q: What does an Executor of an estate have to do?

When executors are depicted in the movies, there is generally drama surrounding the estate they are in charge of administering. In real life, there may or may not be drama over the executor’s duties--and much depends on decisions made during the estate planning process.

In a nutshell, New York and New Jersey estate planning attorneys help people put their affairs in order so that their property ends up in the hands of those they want to get it. While that sounds simple, it often isn’t. Each family dynamic is different, so each estate plan must also be unique.

Even when people utilize trusts in their estate planning, there is virtually always a reason to also have a last will and testament, aka a “Will”, to distribute any assets that are not part of established trusts or don’t otherwise pass to beneficiaries outside of the probate process. A will names the legal guardian of minor children. It also appoints an executor to handle the probate of the estate.

Being appointed executor of someone’s estate is an honor—but it’s also a burden. It means they trusted you to handle marshaling their assets, paying off their creditors, and distributing what’s left to the people or entities they designated. It is a time-consuming job and most states provide a statutory fee for taking it on. But an executor is a fiduciary who has to answer to the court and the beneficiaries for everything they do or fail to do—and they can be held personally responsible for financial losses an estate suffers as a result of their actions or inactions.

Before accepting the role of executor, people should consider whether they have the time, temperament, and organizational skills to do this job. Estate administration can take 1-2 years or more and sometimes involves traveling to another state. 

Testators can make this job easier by making lists of all assets, including real estate property, bank and retirement accounts, life insurance, all creditors and account numbers, all internet accounts/social media and the passwords, all online automatic monthly bills information, inventory of jewelry and personal items and who should get what to help an executor when the time comes. Some executors may have to sort through a “hoarder home” full of decades of clutter which may include items of real or just sentimental value.

In addition, executors often are mistrusted by beneficiaries unless they are very transparent throughout the process. This is sadly, particularly true among siblings if one is appointed over the others.

New York estate administration attorneys

If you need assistance with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, or if you have questions regarding estate administration, the law offices of Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today for a consultation.

From our offices in Staten Island, New York, and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all aspects of estate planning and administration.


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