Table of Contents:
- Responsibilities of the Executor of a Will in Florida
- Responsibilities of the Executor of a Will in Louisiana
- Executor Responsibilities in Texas
Although an executor of a will has several responsibilities that can take several weeks or months to execute, some of the first responsibilities involve setting up the proper paper work to ensure the rest of the process runs smoothly. Some of these responsibilities include filing the will with the court system, requesting a certified copy of the decedent's death certificate and assembling the estate's assets, which includes everything from personal banking accounts to real estate deeds and property titles.
Protecting Estate Property
One of the main responsibilities of an executor is to protect the estate's property. This includes having the power to make any investments that would enhance the value of the property or selling any assets that would decrease the estate's value. Hiring the correct professionals to help with these responsibilities is also another role of the executor.
In Florida, the executor of a will must also settle any accounts regarding the estate. This includes collecting any money that is due to the decedent, as well as paying off any debts the decedent owes. The executor also should file any claims for benefits from insurance policies and Social Security. When tax returns are required, executors will file income tax returns and estate tax returns.
Most wills have beneficiaries, so one of the roles of an executor is to communicate with the decedent's beneficiaries on what actions are being taken. As the process evolves, the executor will be responsible for closing out the estate and distributing any remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
Terms and Definitions
The "succession representative" in Louisiana is synonymous with "executor" as other states use the term. This individual is responsible for carrying out the terms of the will. The will can make the appointment, but if the deceased died without a will, a representative can file for the position by petitioning the parish court. A court-appointed succession representative may handle the property and debts, as well as the distribution of assets to the heirs.
If the will appointed a succession representative, that individual is responsible for presenting the will to the court. The court approves the will as valid, and issues authority for the succession representative to proceed with his work. The succession representative then draws up an inventory of all property belonging to the deceased. In Louisiana, any property jointly owned by the deceased and someone else is "non-succession property" and passes automatically to that joint owner. In this case, the succession representative does not have any responsibility or involvement.
Debts and Taxes
In Louisiana, the succession representative is responsible for notifying creditors and paying all debts and taxes owed by the estate. Louisiana struck down state inheritance taxes in 2012, but enforces no statute of limitations on other debts owed by an estate. Once the succession has closed and the assets have been distributed, heirs have no personal liability for these debts. The succession representative may actively manage the assets of an estate, as long as the will allows him to do so. If not, a succession representative needs court permission to buy, sell or invest estate assets.
The Tableau of Distribution
After the court resolves any issues or disputes, the Louisiana succession representative creates a tableau of distribution. This is a chart ("tableau" in French) describing the proposed distribution of assets to heirs. The heirs of the deceased may object to the tableau and have the court hear their claims. Once issues are resolved, the presiding judge issues a judgement of possession, approving the distribution of assets. While the succession is underway, Louisiana law requires the succession representative to file an annual accounting of the proceedings. After the succession is resolved, the succession representative renders a final accounting and then collects a fee, set by state law at 2.5 percent of the gross assets of the estate.
Louisiana does not require a judicial succession if the deceased died without a will, has no immovable property such as a house, and left his assets to immediate family -- defined as children, spouses, parents, siblings, or children of siblings. The survivors sign an affidavit, which they present to all property custodians: banks, stock brokers, and anyone holding the property of the deceased. This relieves the custodian of any liability over the transfer. If the rights to property are uncertain or disputed, the heirs can still open a judicial proceeding.
Notify Beneficiaries and Creditors
Deadlines govern most of an executor’s duties. For example, Section 128A of the Probate Code says you have 60 days to locate and notify beneficiaries by certified mail with a return receipt about the decedent’s death. Within 90 days, you must file a sworn affidavit of compliance containing the names and addresses of each beneficiary you contacted. In addition, you must publish a notice to creditors in a local newspaper within 30 days and give written notice to all secured creditors by certified mail with a return receipt within 60 days.
Gather and Manage Assets
Gathering a decedent’s personal property, vehicle titles, real estate deeds and bank and investment accounts involves locating and taking physical possession of these items and transferring ownership from the decedent to the estate. Within 90 days, you must complete and file an estate inventory that lists and values personal and community cash, personal and real estate assets separately. Until you liquidate or transfer ownership to beneficiaries, you must continue meeting all financial obligations for secured assets, such as paying taxes for real estate or loan payments for the decedent’s vehicle.
Liquidate the Estate and Pay Outstanding Debts
Liquidation involves disposing of or selling a decedent’s personal property either privately or through an estate sale. Hold all cash received in an estate bank account and pay outstanding debts before distributing the remainder to the decedent’s beneficiaries. Debts include funeral expenses, attorney fees, creditor obligations, outstanding child support and federal income tax. You will not have to file a final state tax return, as Texas does not collect income tax.
File and Pay Taxes
Refer to Internal Revenue Service Publication 559, Survivors, Executors and Administrators, for the most current information about taxes. The IRS requires an executor to file a final tax return that covers the period from Jan. 1 of the current year through the date of death. File the return using Form 1040 to report any income received by the estate between the date of death and the date the estate closes. In addition, if the estate has a gross value of $5,340,000 or more, you’ll need to file United States Estate Tax Return, IRS Form 706, and a Texas Inheritance Tax Return and pay the required taxes.