Monday, March 10, 2014

You've Been Asked to be Executor of a Will - Now What?

Executors of Texas wills have specific duties and responsibilities.  If someone that you know has asked if they can name you as their Executor, Co-Executor or Alternate Executor, you may want to know more about the job before you accept it.

A Co-Executor is an Executor that serves at the same time as one or more other Executors. Sometimes the Last Will and Testament specifies that any decisions made by Co-Executors must be made unanimously, or by majority rule.   An Alternate Executor is someone who is in line for the job if other Executor(s) who are first in line are unable or unwilling to serve. 

An Executor has a fiduciary responsibility to act in good faith and to be diligent in his/her duties.  The primary job of the Executor is to gather and preserve the assets of the estate, and then to distribute the estate. If an Executor is going to distribute the estate properly, s/he must know (or find out) who and where the heirs are, what assets are in the estate and the value of those assets, and whether there are any debts that the estate owes.  An Executor does not have authority to act until the court appointment where she is "qualified" and takes an Oath. After the court hearing, there is a calendar for filing certain documents with the court, (such as the Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate and proof of publication of a legal Notice to Creditors.)

Being an Executor can be quite paperwork-intensive in some cases. In other cases, the process is quite straightforward.

If you are named as an Executor and you do not want to accept, you can decline. If you know that you will not, under any circumstances, want to serve as Executor it is much kinder to be honest with your friend or family member right away, rather than allowing them to spend time and money creating documents that place you in a role that you won't accept.

If, at the time of the person's death, you are unable to accept the appointment as Executor, you may be able to decline by informing the family or the estate attorney that you do not wish to serve and then a probate judge will not be asked to appoint you. In some cases you may need to file a document with the court to state that you respectfully decline appointment. 

The Texas law does have specific requirements for Executors.  An Executor can get specific guidance from a probate attorney.  A probate attorney can help explain the process of appointment, list the time limits for filing specific documents and give an Executor practical, useful information about how to best perform his/her duties. 

Since 1984

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