An executor, called an executrix if the person serving is female, is a person appointed in a Will to manage the affairs of and distribute property in a deceased person’s probate estate. Serving as an executor is an important job that carries with it a great deal of responsibility. Whether you have been appointed executor in someone else’s Will or whether you are trying to decide who to appoint as executor in your own Will, it is important to know what the job entails.
In Arkansas, the executor named in a Will does not have any legal authority until a Court admits the Will to probate and appoints the individual as executor. The Court oversees the executor’s actions throughout the probate process and certain actions require Court approval.
The executor’s primary duty is to manage and preserve the estate for prompt distribution under the terms of the Will. The first task is to gather the deceased person’s assets for safekeeping. This usually involves setting up an estate bank account. Once the assets are gathered, the executor must file an inventory with the Court of all property owned by the deceased person at death. Managing the estate may involve selling property, liquidating assets, collecting income or rents due to the estate, continuing businesses, litigating or settling pending lawsuits, performing contracts and investing funds.
The executor is responsible for making necessary notifications of death. This includes publishing notice in the newspaper and notifying heirs and creditors of the estate. The executor is responsible for paying valid creditor claims.
The executor is also tasked with filing any necessary tax returns and paying any taxes due. The tax forms must be filed within time frames set by law. Taxes may include income taxes and/or estate taxes.
The executor’s final duty is to distribute the assets and close the estate. Before the estate can be closed, the executor must file a final accounting that must be approved by the court.
An executor may not have to perform all of these duties or may have to perform many more duties than those that are listed in this article. I often hear people say, “I had no idea there was this much to it.” Although the job may sound arduous, keep in mind that an executor is allowed compensation, subject to approval by the Court.
Ashley Naramore is an attorney in Hot Springs serving Hot Springs, Hot Springs Village, Garland County, Saline County, and surrounding areas in Southwest Arkansas. She has her JD and her LLM in Estate Planning and Elder Law.