Selecting an appropriate executor for your will ranks among the many important decisions you need to make as you plan your estate. Understanding the duties of an executor in New York can help you make the right choice.
Briefly, the executor bears responsibility for the technical and practical aspects of managing the estate after the testator passes away. Similar to a trustee, an executor is considered a fiduciary who owes a special duty to carry out the decedent's wishes.
Handling probate proceedings
The executor starts the probate process by filing the will and death certificate with the New York Surrogate Court, along with any additional documentation the court may require. As the representative of the estate, the executor may work with an attorney to ensure legal requirements are met.
Safeguarding the estate
In addition, the executor may perform various duties necessary to manage the estate and protect the interests of beneficiaries. This can mean managing a business, inventorying and appraising assets and satisfying valid claims by creditors against the estate.
Protecting the interests of beneficiaries
Executors should also create and maintain records and accounts on all assets. They may have a duty to keep assets from depreciating. For example, the executor may need to ensure appropriate physical maintenance of real estate, make investments and act in good faith to keep a business running. Some or all of these activities may necessitate engaging accountants or other professionals.
The executor must also deal with ongoing contracts or obligations that affect the estate. These may include rental agreements, lawsuits and taxes.
Some helpful characteristics
To handle the above duties, executors should possess practical sense and an aptitude for handling business matters, as well as organization and attention to detail. In many cases, executors must also demonstrate tact and conflict resolution skills, as they may have to deal with conflicts among beneficiaries or complaints from relatives who feel treated unfairly.