A family member or friend has named you as their executor. If you have never served as executor before, you probably have a lot of questions and concerns.
You take on a lot of responsibility when you serve as an executor. You will have a lot to do, including:
- Collecting property owned by the decedent at the time of death.
- Contracting the services of an appraiser(s) to perform the required appraisals for real and personal property.
- Paying all valid claims from creditors of the deceased. This may include reimbursements owed to Pennsylvania under its estate recovery program.
- Filing an inheritance tax return and all required income tax returns and paying the taxes. In some cases you may have to file a federal estate tax return.
- Filing an accounting with the Court or getting a settlement agreement among all beneficiaries.
- Distributing the estate to the beneficiaries in conformity with the approved accounting or settlement agreement.
Here are some of the questions we frequently are asked by executors:
1. Am I required to accept the appointment as an executor?
Being appointed as executor does not mean you have to accept. You may renounce your appointment, in which case the alternate executor named in the decedent’s Will can become the executor. If there is no alternate an “administrator” will be appointed in conformity with state laws.
2. As an executor am I personally liable for the debts of the decedent?
As long as the executor properly administers the estate according to the law, he or she will not be held personally liable for any debts owed by the decedent.
3. Am I entitled to compensation for acting as an executor?
Yes, you are entitled to reasonable compensation. Keep in mind that you will have to pay income tax on the compensation you receive from the Estate because it is income you earned. If anyone complains that your fee is excessive the amount is subject to review by the Court
4. How long will it take for my work as executor to be completed?
Although there is no definite answer to this question, the average estate administration takes approximately one year. Some estates may be concluded is less time and some estates may take longer. In most cases, the size of the estate and the type of assets in the estate dictate the time frame. Inheritance taxes are due 9 months after the date of death.
5. Do I need the assistance of a lawyer?
There is no legal requirement that you must contract the services of an attorney to help you administer an estate. However, it is good common sense. Few people have the legal knowledge or experience to properly administer an estate. Even experienced executors usually hire an attorney. As an executor you may be held personally responsible if you fail to properly handle the estate or pay taxes. It is generally in your best interest and the best interest of the beneficiaries of the estate to hire an experienced lawyer to help you through the process.
At Marshall, Parker and Weber we make your work as an executor as easy and worry-free as possible. We guide you through each step of the process and ensure that you meet all of your responsibilities and the estate is administered and distributed properly.
Our Estate Administration Department is staffed by attorneys and paralegals with many years of experience in performing Estate Administration work. We are a very “hands on” law firm and we will work to make your experience as an executor as simple and stress-free as possible.
Note: this article is intended to give you a brief overview of your responsibilities as an executor and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. The duties of an executor are not limited to the responsibilities set forth in this article.