There is a very good likelihood that you will have a need to know what the duties and responsibilities of an Executor are at some point in your life. That need may spring up because you are notified that you are the Executor of the estate of someone who recently died. If not then, you will still have a need to know so that you are sure to appoint the right person to the position of Executor of your estate. Most people are actually surprised when they learn about some of the more difficult Executor duties and responsibilities.
The Probate Process
Before going into detail about the various duties and responsibilities an Executor has, it helps to put the role of Executor in context. That requires learning a little about the probate process given the fact that the Executor oversees the probate process. When you die, your estate will be required to go through the legal process known as probate. Probate is intended to serve a number of purposes, including:
- Authenticating the decedent’s Last Will and Testament
- Identifying, locating, and valuing the estate assets left behind by the decedent
- Notifying creditors of the decedent’s death and giving them the opportunity to file claims against the estate.
- Ensuring that all taxes owed by the decedent and/or the estate are paid.
- Transferring assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate
What Are Some of the Most Difficult Executor Duties and Responsibilities?
The Executor of an estate is appointed in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament. The overarching job of an Executor is to oversee the administration of the estate during the probate of the estate. That entails a wide range of duties and responsibilities, some of the more difficult of which include:
- Locating all of the decedent’s assets – ideally, the decedent left a very detailed list of all estate assets, complete with their value and location. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Therefore, the Executor often spends a good deal of time and effort just trying to identify what assets the decedent owned at the time of death.
- Valuing those assets – formal probate requires the Executor to obtain a “date of death” value for all estate assets. Depending on the type of asset, this can require enlisting the assistance of professional appraisers. For example, if the decedent owned real property, valuable art, or a unique collection, the Executor will need an expert to provide a value.
- Reviewing creditor claims – creditors of the estate must be notified that probate is underway and given an opportunity to file a claim against the estate. The Executor then has the job of reviewing all those claims and deciding which ones are valid claims and need to be paid and which claims should be denied.
- Liquidating assets to pay claims or taxes if necessary – if the estate lacks sufficient liquid assets to pay all approved claims and/or to pay estate taxes, the Executor must decide which assets to sell in order to raise the funds to pay the debts. This can be a difficult decision to make considering the fact that those assets were likely intended to be gifts to loved ones.
- Defending the estate if someone contests the Will – without a doubt, the most difficult duty an Executor has is defending the decedent’s Last Will and Testament if someone decides to contest it by filing a Will contest. This can be a lengthy and costly process. If the Executor has not already hired an estate planning attorney to help with the probate of the estate, one should be hired to help defend the Will if it is contested as a Will contest involves complicated legal issues that typically require an attorney’s knowledge and experience to handle.
As you can see, the job of Executor is not a simple job. If you are creating your own Last Will and Testament, do not make the mistake of appointing someone as your Executor without stopping to consider if that person is the right person for the job.
If you have additional questions about the duties of an Executor in North Carolina, contact an experienced North Carolina estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.