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Financial Fitness & Life Planning

What Are My Duties as Executor of My Aunt's Estate?

Question: My aunt has named me as the Executor in her Last Will and Testament. She has concerns about the burden that this will place on me. As her Executor, what will my duties and responsibilities be? 
 
Answer: Once the Surrogate’s Court appoints you as the Executor of your aunt’s estate, you will be obligated to carry out the provisions of her Last Will and Testament and to serve as the administrator of the Estate. In your role as Executor, you will be the fiduciary of your aunt’s estate and it is your job to see that the wishes she expressed in her Will are carried out. A Will can appoint more than one Executor and can appoint successor Executors in the event the primary designee resigns, predeceases the decedent, or refuses to act. Your duties as Executor may include, but are not limited to the following:
 

  • Handle the payment of funeral arrangements.
  • Pay any outstanding debts of the estate.
  • Locate and notify witnesses to Will.
  • Notify post office to forward mail.
  • Make sure house and other buildings have fuel during the winter months and are secure.
  • Open a checking account and/or saving account for the estate.
  • Marshall the assets of the estate.
  • Discontinue unneeded utilities.
  • Examine the contents of safe deposit box.
  • Search for valuable papers and assets.
  • Inspect all real estate and locate mortgages and leases affecting the property.
  • Examine all life insurance, real estate, and personal property insurance policies.
  • Select qualified appraisers for all property to be sold.
  • Investigate possibility of profit-sharing or pension death benefits.
  • Review income tax returns for past three years.
  • Make sure all tax returns are filed on time.
  • Distribute assets in accordance with the terms of the Will.
  • File the required inventory of decedent’s assets with the court within six months of the date of appointment.
  • Prepare formal or informal accounting as the case may require.
  • Obtain receipts and releases or waiver of citation from beneficiaries, and submit decree settling account where format account and decree are necessary.

 
There are Court filing fees associated with the probate of a Will that follow the Surrogate’s Court statutory fee schedule. These fees range from $45.00 for estates valued at less than $10,000.00 up to $1,250.00 for estates with values of over $500,000.00.
 
As Executor, you are entitled to compensation in the form of commissions for your service. Commissions are usually paid out of the estate after the distributions have taken place and subject to approval of either the Court or the beneficiaries of the estate. Commissions are based upon a statutory commission rate as follows: 5% on the first $100,000.00 in the estate, 4% on the next $200,000.00, 3% on the next $700,000.00, 2-1/2 % on the next $4,000,000.00 and 2% on any amount above $5,000,000.00. This income must be reported as earned income on your personal income tax return in the year received.
 
As Executor, you will have the ability to seek and retain the services of an experienced trusts and estates attorney to help guide you through the process and it would be prudent for you to do so.
 
Email Kim Smith at:   Ksmith@burnersmith.com
 
                                                                        By Kim M. Smith, Esq.
                                                                        BURNER, SMITH & ASSOCIATES, LLP

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