When someone composes a will, it is common practice for them to appoint an executor. This is no minor decision when making a will, because one’s executor will be charged with a multitude of probate tasks which add up to a fairly sizeable responsibility when taken all together. These tasks are fiduciary in nature, meaning the executor must place the interests of the will-maker above their own when engaging in their duties. These fiduciary duties include:
Gathering together and taking stock of the estate’s assets, which may involve:
o Searching for and inventorying assets that were in the dead person’s sole ownership;
– Contacting banks and ensuring the funds in accounts are transferred to an estate account.
o Valuing these assets as of the date of death;
o Where assets are jointly owned the executor may need to assess them for whether they would pass through the process of probate in order to determine whether any estate tax may be due.
Paying any outstanding debts the estate still owes (that are enforceable after death), by, in part:
o Contending with any expenses or debts that present following the death, and that are enforceable after death (this requires some sharp thinking, as some debt collectors will attempt to convince executors that a debt is enforceable when in fact it is not);
o Ensuring that required tax returns—state and federal—are filed. This may include:
– Income tax returns, or
– Estate tax returns (as mentioned above).
Distributing the remaining assets according to the stipulations of the will, or, if there was no will (in which case the executor will have been chosen by the probate court), distributing according to Virginia’s laws of intestacy. In order to distribute according to the will, the executor may need to formulate a formal plan to follow, in order to make sure everything goes to its proper beneficiary.
Failure to faithfully perform the duties that come with executorship can result in the court removing the executor and replacing them with another person who is more capable to properly handle the estate.
We Can Assist Executor’s With Probate Duties
If you would prefer to have more say over how your property gets distributed when you die, or you are considering other ways to plan for the future, then we invite you to attend one of Promise Law’s free probate workshops. These workshops provide a great foundation of information that everyone needs to be able to make good estate planning decisions. Moreover, if you attend a workshop you also get a complimentary one-on-one consultation with one of our attorneys.