Losing a family member or loved one is difficult enough to process and handle without adding additional stress. If you also learn that the decedent appointed you to be the Executor of the estate, you may not feel emotionally or practically able to perform the job. Are you obligated to serve as the Executor if appointed? The Port St. Lucie probate lawyers at Kulas Law Group explain your options if you were appointed to be the Executor of an estate.
What Is an Executor?
One of the things a Testator does when executing a Will is appoint someone to be the Executor of the estate. The Executor is the person who will oversee the probate of the estate after the Testator is gone, usually with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney. Just because you are appointed to be the Executor, however, does not mean that you are required to serve in that capacity. An Executor is not obligated to accept the appointed. If you choose not to accept the appointment, and the Testator included a secondary choice for Executor, that person can serve as the Executor. If neither of you are willing nor able to serve, the court will appoint a Personal Representative to oversee the probate of the estate.
What Are an Executor’s Duties?
Although every estate is unique, some of the most common duties of an Executor during the probate of an estate include:
- Initiating the Probate Process. An original copy of the decedent’s Will, a certified copy of the death certificate, and a petition to open probate of the estate must be submitted to the appropriate probate court to get the probate process started.
- Managing Estate Assets. An Executor must identify and locate all estate assets and decide which ones are probate assets and which are non-probate assets. The Executor is also responsible for securing and managing all estate assets throughout the probate of the estate.
- Paying Estate Claims. The Executor is required to notify all creditors of the estate that probate is underway. Creditors then have a statutory period of time within which they must file claims against the estate. The Executor must review all claims and approve or deny each one. Approved claims must then be paid out of estate assets.
- Defending the Estate. If someone challenges the validity of the Will, the Executor is required to defend the Will throughout the ensuing litigation.
- Calculating and Paying Estate Taxes. Every estate is potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes. An Executor is responsible for calculating, preparing, filing, and paying (if applicable) all state and federal taxes.
- Transferring Ownership and Distributing Assets. At the end of the probate process, the Executor may need to file a final inventory with the probate court and transfer the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
What Happens If I Decline to Serve as the Executor?
If you decline to accept your appointment as Executor (and a secondary choice is not an option), the court will have to appoint someone. In that case, the Florida Probate Code dictates that the person selected by a majority in interest of the persons entitled to the estate will be the Personal Representative. If a Personal Representative cannot be agreed upon by a majority in interest, a devisee (beneficiary) under the Will may apply and be appointed by the court. If more than one devisee applies, the court may select the one best qualified. If no application is made by any of the beneficiaries, the court shall appoint a capable person; but no person may be appointed who works for, or holds public office under, the court nor anyone who is employed by, or holds office under, any judge exercising probate jurisdiction.
Contact the Port St. Lucie Probate Lawyers
To learn more, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about serving as the Executor of an estate, please contact the Port St. Lucie probate lawyers at Kulas Law Group by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule a consultation.