Duties of an Executor

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Every Maryland estate has an executor called a Personal Representative (PR).

Before distribution of assets, a PR has the responsibility to follow the terms of the Will (if one exists) or statues regarding intestacy to the greatest extent possible, undertake all necessary actions to manage the estate’s assets, and pay the proper debt as well as appropriate taxes.

A PR is held to a legal standard of prudence and reasonableness. For example, a PR should not use estate assets to purchase volatile stocks, to pay their personal debt, or distribute estate assets before it is time to do so.

While being an executor can mean wearing a number of different hats, the following explains several common duties someone can expect in this role.

The Will

Because they are the person responsible for carrying out the instructions within, an executor must locate the most recent originally signed copy of a decedent’s will, read, and understand it. They should then take the will, a certificate of death, and the other necessary paperwork to the Register of Wills of the county in which the decedent lived in order to open an estate.

Notify Appropriate Parties

Credit card companies, banks, relevant government agencies like the Social Security Administration, and other parties should be notified of the decedent’s death. In a regular estate, one in which the decedent’s assets total more than $50,000.00 (or $100,000.00 if only a spouse is inheriting), you will also have to publish a notice in a local legal newspaper when probate starts. This serves as notification to interested parties.

Handling Of Assets

As the Personal Representative, you will be responsible for the management of Estate assets throughout the probate process.

The first step is determining what assets come into the estate and which pass outside of probate.

  • Accounts and items naming beneficiaries such as bank, stock, or other accounts with POD/TOD designations land will go directly to the named party.
  • Co-owned assets such as financial accounts, land, or property pass directly to the surviving owner.
  • All other assets will be distributed according to the contents of the decedent’s will or the intestacy laws.

Before distribution can occur the PR has several fiduciary obligations to both the estate and the government. Any just debt appropriately claimed against the Estate must be satisfied. There are also several fees and sometimes taxes associated with Estates that must be paid.

Finally, a document called an Accounting or Statement of Distribution, depending on the size of the Estate, must be filed. These filings show all Estate assets, any gains or losses they have incurred since the owner’s death, and their final disposition. Filing this document provides increased transparency for interested parties wondering what has occurred in an estate and provides an avenue for objections.

Being named an executor is an honor but comes with great responsibility.

If you have questions about the process or feel you are unable to adequately perform the tasks it entails, contact Abraham & Bauer to find a solution today.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

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