While being assigned executor of a will is an honor, it is also an obligation and big responsibility. By definition, an executor (also called a “personal representative”) is an individual or bank or trust company that settles the estate of a testator according to the terms of the will, or if there is no will in accordance with the laws of the decedent’s estate (intestacy), although a person acting in intestacy may be called by a different name, such as administrator.
As executor of a will, you will have the authority and responsibility to perform the following tasks:
- Obtain a copy of the latest will have an understanding of its instructions.
- File a petition with the court to admit the will to probate (if probate is necessary).
- Collect all of the decedent’s assets.
- If applicable, take possession of the decedent’s safe deposit box and its contents.
- Consult with financial institutions where the descendent was known to have accounts. Also check for cash and other valuables that may be hidden at the decedent’s residence.
- Transfer all securities to the executor’s name and continue to collect dividends and interest on behalf of the decedent’s heirs.
- Locate and take inventory on all real estate deeds, mortgages, and leases.
- Provide immediate management for rental properties.
- Arrange for ancillary administration for out-of-state property.
- Collect any money owed to the deceased.
- Take inventory on all important household items and personal effects so they remain protected.
- Collect all life insurance proceeds payable to the estate.
- Find and safeguard all business interests, valuables, personal property, important documents, the residence, vacation homes, and other properties.
- Inventory and appraise all assets.
- Keep track of liquidity needs by assembling bookkeeping records, reviewing investment portfolios, and selling appropriate assets.
- Pay valid claims against the estate. Reject improper claims and if necessary, defend the estate.
- Pay any state and federal taxes that may be due.
- File the following tax returns – income tax, federal estate, state death and/or inheritance.
- Determine whether the estate qualifies for “special use valuation” under the tax laws ((IRC § 2032A), the qualified family-owned business interest deduction (IRC § 2057), or deferral of estate taxes (IRC §§ 6161 or 6166).
- If the surviving spouse is not a U.S. citizen, consider a qualified domestic trust to defer the payment of federal estate taxes.
- Keep track of all receipts and disbursements.
- Pay attorney’s fees and executor’s fees.
- Allocate specific bequests and the remaining assets, obtain tax releases and receipts as directed by the court, and establish a testamentary trust (if applicable).
When dealing with the complex nature of estate law, it is a good idea to seek the guidance of a knowledgeable estate attorney. Our firm specialize in all facets of estate law, offering representation in Wauwatosa, WI and surrounding Wisconsin areas including Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, and Kenosha counties. Please give us a call at 414-259-9300 for a free consultation.