Being named executor of a loved one’s estate can be overwhelming. Inevitably, the responsibility arrives at a time already rife with stress and rarely is a person well-prepared for the job. If you are in this position, educating yourself about the scope of the executor’s role is an important first step.
In Texas, a person named executor of a will has four basic responsibilities:
- Filing an Application with Probate Court
After a person has died and their will has been located, the first step in administering their estate involves filing an application with your local probate court. At this stage, there is a mandatory waiting period before the hearing can be conducted. When there is a well drafted will, the hearing typically takes five minutes or less. Furthermore, no beneficiary or heir has to be notified prior to the hearing. This can be important if a contest is anticipated. In addition, the named executor may turn down the appointment—something that may happen if, for instance, they do not wish to assume the fiduciary duty that comes with the role.
- Identifying Assets
Once an executor has been appointed by the court as such, they next need to attend to identifying and may need to disclose all of the estate’s assets to the court. This includes real estate, vehicles, financial accounts, personal property, digital assets, pets, and so on. If the deceased owned real property in another estate, an ancillary probate process will need to be initiated, and if the estate includes a business, that asset may need to be administered as well, depending on the agreements, if any, between the business owners.
- Payment of Debts and Taxes
The executor is responsible for notifying the estate’s creditors, validating any claims that arrive, and ensuring valid debts are paid. A final tax return must also be filed for the deceased, taxes must be paid, and funeral expenses need to be covered as well. In addition, both public benefits and credit cards must be canceled.
- Distribution of Assets
Once all expenses have been covered, the executor is then responsible for overseeing the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries named in the deceased’s will. The Executor will likely be given the authority in the will to distribute assets in a manner as the beneficiaries agree, or if they do not agree, how the executor deems necessary. Of course, the will controls as to how any specific gifts are distributed and in what percentages beneficiaries participate in the overall distribution. Once complete, the executor may want to consider closing the estate either with a simple filing or asking the court to discharge them by filing a final accounting.
Administering an estate is an involved process and guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney is crucial. This is not only because an executor may be found in breach of their fiduciary duty if they fail to carry out their responsibilities, but because Texas law allows for different probate procedures depending on the details of the estate. With expert assistance, you can be sure you are following the most advantageous procedure and fulfilling all duties intrinsic in your role as executor
At the Hailey-Petty Law Firm, we take great pride in providing compassionate and comprehensive guidance from the beginning to the end of the estate administration process. If you would like to learn more about being named executor of a will or if you have any other questions concerning estate planning, do not hesitate to call us at (512) 910-8977 in Austin, (210) 570-2458 in San Antonio or to reach out via the contact form on our website.