When a loved one dies with a will, the estate goes through probate. This is the legal process of managing the estate and distributing assets.
Although a judge supervises the process, the person who does the majority of the work is the executor.
Overview of probate
According to FindLaw, after the filing of probate papers, the judge reviews the will to ensure it is valid. The judge will also see if the decedent named an executor in the will. If not, the judge will appoint someone for the role.
The executor’s role
The general role of the executor is to carry out the instructions laid out in the will. One of the main responsibilities of the executor is to distribute assets. Assets that do not go through probate are accounts and policies that have designated beneficiaries, joint-held real estate with right of survivorship and assets in a revocable trust.
According to SF Gate, the executor needs to not only find and collect the assets to distribute, but he or she must also determine their value. The executor must also locate the heirs. Before distribution can occur, the executor needs to pay off all the estate’s debts. This may mean making an effort to find creditors and inform them of the decedent’s death.
The executor must also continue to pay bills of the estate, such as the mortgage, and maintain upkeep of the property. This may mean cleaning out the fridge and emptying the garbage, finding a home for pets and hiring someone to do lawn work. The executor also files and pays taxes associated with the estate.
After the settling of all affairs, distribution of assets can occur. The process of probate can take months or even years, depending on the complexity. The executor does receive payment for the work. If the decedent did not lay out a fee in the will, the judge will determine a fair amount.