What Are the Duties of an Executor of a Will in Washington?

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The executor of a will in Washington has the responsibility of managing and administering the estate of a deceased individual. The Washington statutes refer to this person as a "personal representative." The procedural requirements for the executor may vary depending on the county, but, generally, but the duties are similar. Typically, the court may appoint a special administrator who must find the decedent's will and may take certain actions involving the estate before the court officially appoints the estate executor.

Function

An estate administration takes seven months to two years to administer and close. The job of the executor, or "personal representative," starts with collecting and managing the assets of the decedent. The personal representative must prepare a balance sheet of the assets and liabilities of the deceased person or an "Inventory & Appraisement." In addition, the executor must pay the estate's obligations and taxes. Other actions may include selling assets to pay bills and debts, borrowing funds or managing the deceased's business.

Personal representatives may receive reimbursement for justifiable out-of-pocket expenses for managing and distributing estate assets. The person has the duty to fulfill his responsibilities of handling the estate to the best of his capabilities. The executor may incur liability if improprieties occur concerning the mismanagement of assets.

Obtain an EIN

The personal representative must apply for an employer identification number (EIN) for the estate. The executor must enter this number on any federal and state tax returns for the estate. Typically, the personal representative files a written document with the Internal Revenue Service notifying the IRS of his appointment as the estate executor. This notice authorizes the personal representative to negotiate, settle or pay taxes on behalf of the estate.

Pay the Estate's Obligations

The executor must pay the decedent's debts out of the estate's resources. If there is doubt concerning the validity of a debt, the personal representative may file litigation to resolve the matter. Expenses incurred by the estate, such as appraiser fees, accounting fees and legal expenses must come from the monies left in the estate. The executor hires professional help as necessary to manage and administer the estate and must pay for any expertise out of the estate's resources.

Estate Management

The personal representative assumes legal title to any property or assets contained in the estate. The person must gather the assets and document the property in an Inventory & Appraisement. Sometimes, the executor may have to sell stock, real estate or other assets to pay the estate's obligations. Other tasks may include obtaining tax waivers or filing affidavits.

Pay Taxes

The estate must pay state and federal income taxes when due and the personal executor has the legally responsibility to take care of this matter, including the payment of death taxes and filing the final tax return. Failure to perform this task correctly can make the executor liable for any unpaid taxes. As a rule, the executor must pay the taxes before other obligations. The size of the estate determines whether to file an estate tax return.

Read More: Can an Executor of a Will Be Responsible for the Deceased's Taxes?

Have Assets Appraised

Often, the executor must bring in a professional appraiser to determine the value of jewelry, real estate, artwork or other assets. The "fair market value" of the property will determine the amount of estate taxes the personal representative must pay and assist when it comes to dividing assets between the beneficiaries.

Distribute the Estate

Once the executor has paid the estate's obligations and taxes, the personal representative will distribute the remainder of the assets between the spouse, heirs and other beneficiaries named in the will. Sometimes, the beneficiaries may receive a partial distribution of their share of the inheritance before the estate officially closes.