Being named in a friend or family member’s will as the “executor” of their estate may be an honor, but it also involves considerable duties and responsibilities.
So, what are executor of will duties? Below, we discuss what being an executor entails and the authority and responsibilities they face. For further information, contact an experienced Palmdale CA estate planning lawyer. At the Herbert Law Office, we can provide you with valuable guidance that will help you carry out your duties as an executor of will.
What Is an Executor of Will?
An executor of will is someone or an organization designated as such by a person in their will. However, if you are nominated as an executor, you are not obligated to accept the role.
While a will nominates an executor, the court officially selects them following a hearing. The court can even choose more than one executor. If there is no will or a will does not nominate an executor, an “administrator” is appointed by the court.
An executor administers a deceased person’s estate under the direction of their will. Once you are appointed as executor, you essentially manage the estate’s affairs. Normally, courts allow executors to be reasonably compensated from a portion of the estate’s assets.
If you refuse to serve as executor, the court will appoint someone else. The court will also appoint another person to serve as executor if you resign. Sometimes, wills will mention successor executors to cover these situations or when the executor become incapacitated.
Executors remain in this role until discharged by the court. The court will only do so when it determines that the discharge will not harm the beneficiaries.
What Are the Duties of an Executor of Will?
All executors of wills have a “fiduciary duty” to the will’s beneficiaries imposed upon them until discharge. Fiduciary duty is a high standard of duty. It requires that you act with the same care that a parent has for a child. Thus, as executor, you must not engage in selfish gain or deception. Instead, you must ensure that the will’s beneficiaries are protected.
Just as you’d manage a business, as executor, you must ensure bills, debts, taxes, insurance, and other expenses are paid. You also set up accounts to handle income while the estate is open and handle day-to-day activities.
As executor, you are responsible for collecting and distributing assets to beneficiaries as dictated by the will and state law. This may require finding beneficiaries and updating them periodically.
What Are the Risks of Serving as an Executor of Will?
Your fiduciary duty as executor of will is imposed upon you until discharge. If you refuse or resign the role of executor or become incapacitated, your fiduciary duty endures. Only when the court discharges you from the role and appoints another executor does your duty expire.
Fiduciary duty requires that you obey the will and California law. It also imposes personal liability for any breach of fiduciary duty. If there is more than one executor, each is jointly and severally liable. So, you can be sued if you fail to perform your executor duties in accordance with the will and law.
You can be sued for breach of fiduciary duty even after you’ve been discharged from your role as executor. The statute of limitations to take legal action starts upon finding out about the breach. For minor beneficiaries, the statute of limitations starts to run from the time they reach 18 years of age. So, it’s possible to be sued for breach of your fiduciary duty as executor decades after being nominated.
Of course, there are ways to limit this liability. The first is to hire an experienced estate lawyer. The second is to work with a wills attorney to shorten the duration of the statute of limitations. If fraud is not involved, you can file petitions with the court to limit most causes of action against you.
Learn More About Executor of Will Duties in California
The duties of an executor are serious and carry great risk. The tasks you must complete as an executor can also be difficult and time-consuming. Hiring an experienced Palmdale CA estate planning lawyer will help you properly perform your required duties and tasks. Contact Herbert Law Office today. We can give you the guidance you need to carry out your duties.