Perhaps you have a family member, loved one or friend who has recently passed away. When you look through their things, you find their will. While reading it, you find (hopefully, not to your surprise), that you have been named the executor of the estate. You are, of course, honored that you are trusted enough to be given such a responsibility, but then your thoughts turn to what, exactly, this means. What do you have to do? What are your duties, and where can you find help?
One of the first things to understand about being an executor is that the role comes with certain fiduciary duties. This means that the executor has a duty to act in the best interests of the estate and in a loyal manner in regard to those who have an interest in it. In furtherance of these duties, the executor has some specific responsibilities. They must gather, inventory and appraise all the assets of the estate.
The executor must also collect any monies due and owed to the estate, as well as pay any debts owed by it to other parties. Finally, the executor is responsible for paying any federal, state and local taxes on the estate and then distributing the estate's assets to the beneficiaries as set out in the last will and testament. It is important to understand that the fiduciary duty means that if an executor mishandles the probate assets and causes a loss in value, they may be held liable by the beneficiaries.
Before you get too frightened about making a mistake in your new-found role, be assured that there is help available. Florida is home to many experienced estate planning attorneys who can be called on to give advice and walk you through the probate process and the handling of the estate's affairs. If you would like more information about being an executor, how to handle probate assets or any other estate planning issue, please consider clicking through to our estate administration web page.