The Executor of an Estate is the individual named by the Decedent in his or her Last Will and Testament to act on behalf of the Estate. The Executor is entrusted with the responsibility of making sure the Decedent’s last wishes are carried out with regard to the disposition of the Decedent’s property, assets and possessions.
Serving as the Executor of an Estate can be an honor, however executorial duties can be substantial and intricate. Although New York State law does not require an Executor to be an attorney or other legal or financial expert, it does require than every Executor fulfill their duties with the utmost honesty and diligence. The phrase assigned to this level of care is “fiduciary duty”.
An Executor owes a fiduciary duty to the Estate’s beneficiaries and is obligated to carry out the Will according to its terms and to act with scrupulous good faith and honesty. The Executor must manage the estate assets capably, and address all issues that may arise during the course of the estate’s administration.
The Executor will be required to perform duties which will depend upon, and be specific to, the respective estate. Some of these duties may include: probating the Decedent’s Will, marshaling the Decedent’s assets, managing the Decedent’s property, keeping accurate records with regard to the administration of the Decedent’s assets, paying all valid claims of the Decedent’s creditors, filing the applicable estate tax returns, preparing an estate accounting and making distributions to the Estate’s beneficiaries.
Under New York State law, an Executor is entitled to executor commissions which essentially serve as compensation for administering the Decedent’s estate. In New York, executor commissions are based upon the value of the Decedent’s estate.
Although an Executor is not required to hire an attorney, the mistakes an Executor makes without proper counsel can cost the Executor and the Estate money. Further, an Executor may be personally liable should something go wrong with the administration of the Estate. An attorney who specialized in the administration of estates can help an Executor ensure that the proper steps are taken and all requisite deadlines met.
– Nancy Burner, Esq. and Maria Johnson, Esq.