In an estate case, the court appoints an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is no will) as a personal representative to collect the assets, pay the debts and expenses, and then distribute the rest of the estate to the beneficiaries (those who have the legal right to inherit), all. An executor of an estate is a person appointed to administer the last will of a deceased person. The principal duty of the executor is to carry out the instructions to manage the affairs and wishes of the deceased. The executor is appointed by the testator of the will (the person making the will) or by a court, in cases where there has been no prior appointment.
An important part of making a will is naming someone to act as your executor, also called a personal representative in some states. What is an executor? The executor is the person who will be in charge of your estate after your death. The executor will pool your assets and keep them safe, pay debts and taxes, and distribute your assets according to the terms of your will. What is an “executor”? Is the person or entity designated by the deceased person (the “testator”) in a will to administer that person's estate as indicated in the will.
The reader should read our articles on wills and trusts for a background discussion of what a will is. An executor is the person or entity designated in a will to administer the deceased person's estate as indicated in the will. The executor's duties include settling the estate's debts, selling ownership of the estate if necessary, and distributing the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries in accordance with the will. The payment of professionals used to liquidate the estate can be deducted from the estate funds, so you will not pay out of pocket if you use these services.
Courts allow reasonable compensation to the executor, usually a small percentage of the estate's assets. If the amount of debt owed is greater than the value of the estate, the court or state law determines how debts should be prioritized. Perhaps all assets can be transferred in a way that avoids succession (such as a living trust or beneficiary designations in bank accounts and retirement accounts), or perhaps the estate is small or simple enough to qualify for an estate shortcut. The executor normally hires, at the expense of the estate, the various professionals necessary to carry out many of the above tasks.
If you have a will, you have the ability to appoint an executor who will carry out the terms of that will and ensure that all of your other matters are resolved after your death. The executor can be almost anyone, but they are generally an attorney, accountant, or family member, with the only restriction being that they must be 18 years of age or older and have no prior felony convictions. However, the executor of the estate reserves the right to challenge the will if, for example, the executor can prove that a beneficiary obtained his estate through subterfuge, undue influence, or embezzlement. A removal petition would allege and provide evidence that the executor is unfit due to negligence, misconduct, or incapacity, and is normally filed with a petition suggesting a substitute executor.
The court will not release the executor unless doing so does not harm the beneficiaries of the will. An executor manages and protects estate assets, pays debts and taxes, and transfers assets to heirs (persons entitled to collect an inheritance or asset). Only the court can issue the document (commonly called letters of administration or simply letters) that gives someone authority over the assets of a deceased person's estate. You've been nominated as executor of probate in California, but you're not sure you have the time and ability to meet your obligations.
The executor must also ensure that all of the deceased's debts, including taxes, are paid. Probate letters are a legal document that certifies that you are legally authorized to act on behalf of the estate. .