Many people who are put in charge of a close friend or relative’s estate have never fulfilled executor duties before. It is a position that involves a lot of responsibility, since being an executor means bringing closure to your family and helping to carry out your loved one’s wishes. There is often a learning curve involved for first-time executors, and it is a good idea to have an idea of the requirements going in. Here are a few of the concerns they might have as they learn about their duties:
The most pressing concern for an estate’s executor is usually the probate process. However, there are several ways to make it easier. Not all assets are subject to probate, and there are ways of avoiding probate, such as placing assets in trust or in a retirement account with a named beneficiary. A New York estate planning lawyer can help you to set up a trust to ease the burden of probate on your estate’s executor. Small estates are often eligible for simplified administration as well.
Managing Family Conflict
Often, conflicts within families are exacerbated while an estate is being distributed. Family tensions can erupt in disputes over property and can even result in a contested Will in extreme cases. While the executor is usually a trusted family member, sometimes the strain of conflict can make them uncomfortable with the role. If this is the case, the executor may step down and allow a neutral party such as a probate lawyer to take over.
Executors can be held personally liable for mistakes and delays in administration. If you are lacking in experience with the tax requirements, probate deadlines, and other duties associated with being an estate executor, it can be helpful to seek the advice of a probate attorney. Getting legal advice can make the difference between a seamless probate process and an expensive liability
Paying Income Tax
One of the chief duties of an executor is filing the decedent’s final income tax return, as well as paying taxes on the proceeds from the sale of assets and/or income from living trusts. This can be a complicated process if there are multiple properties and sources of income involved. Tax forms involved include Form 1041 and Form 8971. Failure to report income can result in fines, so it’s important to keep detailed records of all the estate’s income.
Paying Income Tax
Keeping the estate secure until it can be distributed is an important part of the executor’s job. This involves keeping track of valuables such as art, fine jewelry and collectibles in addition to vehicles, real estate and any rental properties owned by the decedent. Property maintenance such as mowing lawns and paying utility bills should also be performed during this time.
Being a first-time executor can be stressful, but with the right guidance you can be sure that you are fulfilling all the duties you are responsible for. For advice about what to do once you’ve been named executor of an estate, contact the law offices of Queens probate lawyer Richard Cary Spivack.