After someone dies, one of the first things that must occur is locating the decedent’s Last Will and Testament if one exists. If the Will is located, it should indicate who the decedent appointed to be the Executor of the estate. If it turns out that you were appointed to be the Executor, you may have mixed feelings about acting as the Executor. Moreover, you may wonder if you are required to accept the job. The Coral Gables probate attorneys at Stivers Law discuss whether an Executor can turn down the job.
Probate and the Role of Executor
Because most people leave behind an estate when they die, the law has a vested interest in making sure the assets included in that estate are properly handled and distributed. Probate is the legal process used to accomplish those goals. If the decedent executed a Last Will and Testament prior to his/her death, someone will be appointed in that Will to be the Executor of the estate. Some common duties and responsibilities that an Executor will have during the probate of an estate include:
- Identifying and securing estate assets. Immediately upon learning of the decedent’s death, the Executor of the estate must try to identify and secure as many estate assets as possible.
- Categorizing, inventorying, and valuing estate assets. Because not all assets are probate assets, all assets must be categorized as probate or non-probate.
- Initiating the probate of the estate. A petition, along with an original copy of the Will and a certified death certificate are usually required to be filed with the appropriate court in order to get probate started.
- Notifying creditors and reviewing creditor claims. Creditors must be notified and given an opportunity to file a claim against the estate. The Executor must review all claims submitted and approve or deny each one. Approved claims are paid out of estate assets.
- Defending the Will/estate in litigation. If someone decides to challenge the validity of the Will submitted for probate, or appeal a denial of claim, the Executor is responsible for legally defending the Will/estate during that litigation.
- Managing assets. Throughout the entire probate process, the Executor has a duty to manage and protect all estate assets until they are transferred to a new owner.
- Calculating and paying estate taxes. The Executor must determine if any federal and/or state gift and estate taxes are due from the estate and any tax debt owed must be paid.
- Transferring assets to beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. At the end of the probate process the Executor will transfer the remaining estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
Can I Turn Down the Job of Executor?
For many people, it is a comforting thought to know who will oversee the administration of their estate assets after they are gone. The court, however, must approve that appointment and make the appointment official. If you were named as an Executor and are reluctant to serve in that role, know that you are not obligated to accept the job. A recent move out of state, job and/or family obligations, or simple reluctance to take on such an important role while grieving the loss of a loved one are all common reasons why you might not want to accept the job of Executor. Ultimately, you turn down the job of Executor for any reason (or without giving a reason) without any repercussions. One caveat to that option: If you have an original copy of the decedent’s Will, you may be legally obligated to submit it to the appropriate court. Check with an experienced probate attorney to determine what you need to do, and what obligations you have (if any), if you want to turn down the job of Executor.
Contact Coral Gables Probate Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE webinar. If you have additional questions or concerns about accepting the job of Executor, or you need help probating an estate, contact the experienced Coral Gables probate attorneys at Stivers Law by calling (305) 456-3255 to schedule an appointment.