If you learn you are the executor of a loved one's will, knowing some basics of what that involves can help you handle this task effectively. Individual situations may vary in complexity, so getting guidance from a qualified attorney is always a good idea.
When a testator makes a will, he or she also appoints an executor to handle the technical and other issues necessary to carry out the will's provisions.
Dealing with probate court
An executor's duties begin with filing the original will in probate court to start the process, keeping track of the progress of legal proceedings and providing the court with required documentation and information, including a complete inventory and accounting of the estate. The probate process usually takes between six months and two years, but it may take longer.
You will also need to put the estate in order. Generally, this means locating and valuing all assets and debts. The executor must create detailed accounts of assets, including real estate, investment accounts and personal property. Depending on the will's provisions, you will need to sell some of the property for the benefit of the estate while others will pass to beneficiaries.
The executor must pay the estate's valid debts and distribute assets or their proceeds in accordance with the will. He or she must also deal with any taxes and get releases from the appropriate government entities.
Provide an accounting
During each step of the process, it is vital to keep detailed and accurate records. When you need to determine the correct value of an asset, use a qualified professional in that area and be sure to document all of it. You also need specific authorization from the court to remove an asset from the estate for any reason. A Tennessee executor has a fiduciary duty to act solely in the estate's interests and to avoid acting for personal benefit.
If you do not want to be the executor
If you do not want to undertake an executor's responsibilities, you have the right to refuse. Many wills make provisions for alternate executors. If the will in your case does not do so, you can ask the court to appoint an executor/administrator.