Estates‎ > ‎

Executor's Duties

Initially, the Executor should locate the Last Will and Testament and carry out any burial instructions.

A. Probate 

    1. Assist attorney in proving the Will. 
    2. Provide names and addresses for family tree. 
    3. Attorney will prepare all the necessary documentation for the probate proceeding and secure the necessary signatures and/or notices to the proper parties. 
    4. Once Letters Testamentary are issued to the Executor/Executrix, he or she is authorized to act. 

B. Safeguarding Assets 

    Immediate protective measures are often required to safeguard assets: 

    1. Preserve - Take necessary steps to preserve assets from loss or vandalism. 
    2. Protect - Obtain general knowledge of decedent’s assets. Arrange to protect value.
    3. Insure - Arrange for additional or new fire or liability insurance, if necessary. 
    4. Collect - Collect valuable files, records and papers to insure their safekeeping and turn over to the attorney. 

C. Assembling Assets 

    Locate and collect all known assets. Search for those that are unknown. The following should be considered: 

    1. Bank accounts and cash 
    2. Safe deposit box 
    3. Household and personal effects 
    4. Securities 
    5. Life insurance and annuities 
    6. Real estate 
    7. Retirement and IRA documents 
    8. Property out of state 9. Miscellaneous 

D. Appraisal and Valuation 

    The attorney and Executor will establish date of death values by qualified appraisals. More extensive work is necessary to value closely-held interests. 

E. Consideration of Assets 

    The attorney will set up an estate checking account with liquid estate assets out of which all debts and administration expenses will be paid. The Executor will be authorized to sign all estate checks. Distribute specific bequests when appropriate. 

    Take into consideration the family’s wishes wherever possible provided they are consistent with the terms of the Will and accepted rules of law. 
    
    1. Personal property - Distribute specific bequests as soon as possible after probate and appraisal. Where sale is indicated, decide upon most advantageous time and method of disposal, with special consideration for objects of unusual value. 
    2. Business interests - Obtain complete information with respect to the operation of decedent’s business. Determine policy as to continuation, liquidation or sale within limits of powers granted in Will or prior agreements. 
    3. Securities - Analyze and review securities periodically with attorney, to determine which should be retained or sold, taking into consideration: the investment qualifications of securities, market conditions, cash required to settle the estate, income tax status of securities and beneficiaries, and ultimate distribution of property either outright or in trust.   
    4. Real Estate - Where sale is to be made, obtain expert appraisal, examine leases, encumbrances, and condition of property. 

F. Payment of Claims 

    The Executor must investigate all claims made against the Estate in order to determine the validity of the claim. If the claim appears doubtful, proof is required. Improper claims will be rejected and proper claims must be paid promptly. It may become necessary to defend suits brought for the rejected claims. Some claims have priority status, i.e., those for exempt property, administrative expenses, funeral expenses, taxes, Medicaid reimbursement, etc. 

G. Taxes 

    Consult with attorney for determination and discharge of all tax liability of decedent and his or her estate. This includes State and Federal income, gift and estate taxes. This is a highly technical field which should be handled by attorney and accountant every step of the way. The estate cannot be closed until all taxes are paid, final receipts are received and estate tax closing letters are received. 

    1. Income and Gift Taxes 
        a. Income before death. 
        b. Income of estate. 
        c. Gift tax. 
    2. Estate Taxes 
        a. State estate tax. 
        b. Federal estate tax. 
        c. Foreign state estate tax. 

H. Final Accounting 

    The attorney will prepare a detailed statement of income and principal receipts and disbursements for the entire estate. This account, which is provided to residuary beneficiaries, shows a detailed history of the management of the estate and is submitted to the Court for approval if required by law. It will list the final attorneys fees as agreed at the inception and will include a computation of Executor’s commissions pursuant to the statutory schedule. 

    1. Attorney’s fees - This office charges based on the amount of time involved in completing the necessary tasks for finalizing the estate. Time records are kept to arrive at the total fee. All out-of-pocket disbursements are billed separately and are also a tax deduction, as are all fees. 
    
    2. Executor’s commissions - The Executor’s commissions are set by statute (Section 2307 SCPA). They are currently: 

        5% of 1st $100,000 of probate assets 
        4% of next $200,000 of probate assets 
        3% of next $700,000 of probate assets 
        2 ½ % of next $400,000 of probate assets 
        2% of over $5,000,000 total probate assets 

    The Executor must pay taxes on these commissions and are includable as income in the year paid to him or her. An Executor may also waive commissions if he or she so desires. The commissions are also a deduction for estate tax purposes, but are treated as ordinary income to the Executor. 

    3. Trustee’s commissions - The Trustee’s commissions are set by statute (Section 2309 SCPA). They are currently: 

        a. Annual commissions (to an individual) 

            $10.50 per $1,000 of principal up to $400,000 
            $4.50 per $1,000 of principal on next $600,000 
            $3.00 per $1,000 of principal over $1 million (Note: a corporate fiduciary is entitled to higher commissions than an individual.) 

        b. Settlement commissions 
 
           1% of principal that is paid out at the time of settlement. 

I. Settlement of Estate 

    Partial distribution of residuary estate and most specific bequests are frequently made before the final accounting. The balance is distributed at the end. 

    1. Payment of Legacies - When the Executor is satisfied that the estate debts, claims and expenses are paid, specific bequests should be paid and delivered and partial payment to residuary heirs are customary. The remaining estate is then distributed in accordance with the Will upon discharge of the Executor. 
    2. Establishment of Trusts - Where trusts are established by Will, funds should be transferred to prudent investments in the trust name as promptly as possible so that they may become productive. The attorney will prepare all the necessary documents for such transfers and thoroughly review the trust process with the Trustee. 
J. Discharge of Executor 

    Once all of the above is completed, the Executor may be discharged of his/her duties. However, the law requires that the estate be open for a minimum of seven (7) months from the date of appointment of the Executor.