Knowing what an executor of a will does is crucial, whether you’ve been appointed as one or need to select one for your own estate plan.
The role is loaded with responsibility, both morally and legally. In brief, an executor is responsible for managing someone’s affairs after their death.
In this guide, we’ll cover what an executor of a will does and answer some FAQs. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact our personal representative attorneys.
A Guide to Being an Executor
What Is an Executor?
An executor (also commonly referred to as ‘personal representative’, especially in Florida) is an individual responsible for another person’s financial affairs after their death. They are appointed in the decedent’s will or, if there is no will or instructions, by a court.
Their role is to be the facilitator of the estate and have a range of responsibilities, including paying outstanding debts, and taxes and distributing assets to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries.
Things an Executor of a Will Must Do
Executors have a legal responsibility to fulfill various duties. These may include:
- Gather the decedent’s personal assets and secure them until they are distributed. This may include locking property, protecting physical assets and selling real estate or securities.
- Start probate, by filing the will with the local probate court. Some assets (such as those jointly owned) will pass automatically without probate.
- Represent the estate in court. The executor may be required to represent the estate in court.
- Ensure the will’s instructions are followed, including wishes for distributions. If there is no will or instructions, then ensure Florida’s intestate succession laws are followed.
- Handle existing accounts, contracts, bills and subscriptions, such as terminating leases and credit cards and notifying banks and government agencies of the death.
- Establish an estate bank account to hold funds received from the sale of assets and securities.
- Pay continuing expenses with the estate’s funds, such as utility bills, insurance premiums and mortgage payments.
- Notify creditors as per state law. In Florida, creditors must be notified via a newspaper notice in the county where the decedent lived. Known creditors must be directly notified. If no claims are made, the debt is waived.
- Pay outstanding debts.
- Pay taxes. The executor must file a final income tax return, which covers the start of the tax year to the date of death.
- Oversee estate distribution. Assets should go to the named individuals or to those entitled to assets under Florida state law.
- Dispose of remaining property. If there are still remaining personal possessions that haven’t been claimed or distributed, then it is down to the executor to dispose of, sell or donate them.
- Perform with fiduciary duty at all times.
Read related: Complete Guide to Navigating Florida Probate
Executor Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
Who Can be an Executor of a Will?
Personal representatives can be individuals or an entity, such as a bank or trust.
They must be:
- At least 18 years old.
- Physically or mentally capable of performing the required duties
- Never convicted of a felony.
- A resident of the state of Florida or;
- A spouse, parent, child, sibling or other close relatives of the deceased person.
Entities must be:
- A trust company incorporated under Florida law or;
- Savings, loans or banks authorized and qualified to exercise fiduciary power in Florida.
What is Fiduciary Duty?
Fiduciary duty is the legal requirement for a person to act with care, loyalty, good faith, confidentiality and in the best interests of the beneficiaries at all times. They must not act in their own personal interests or in any way that can jeopardize the best interests of the beneficiaries and estate.
They are not required to be a financial or legal expert but must act with fiduciary duty at all times. For that reason, it can be wise for an executor to hire a Florida real estate lawyer to gain peace of mind and expertise.
How Do I Know If I’ve Been Named an Executor of a Will?
Most executors of a will should have been notified in advance. This is an important selection, so the will’s creator usually discusses it with the executor before death. However, if you’ve forgotten or were unaware, then you will likely be notified.
Can I Reject Being an Executor of a Will?
Yes. An executor can accept or decline their responsibility and resign at any time. An alternate executor will be appointed either per the will’s instructions or via a court decision.
Do Executors Get Paid?
Executors are entitled to payment which varies with each state’s laws and the value of the estate. In Florida, executors can receive a percentage of the decedent’s estate for their work. This starts at 3% for the first million dollars, 2.5% for the next four million dollars and 2% of the next five million dollars.
However, the main motivating factor for an executor is usually to honor the deceased person’s request. Some close relatives and friends choose not to charge the estate for their work as executors.
Does an Executor Need to Hire a Probate Lawyer?
A personal representative is not legally required to hire a lawyer. However, it is highly advised for estates that are complex or involve disputes amongst beneficiaries or creditors.
An attorney can ensure that you, as an executor of a will, do everything legally and have support with complex legal matters and decision-making.
The lawyer can also take over the process entirely. They will be paid out of the estate.
Read related: Frequently Asked Questions About Wills
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today for Executor Support
We hope this guide has helped you understand what an executor of a will does. If you need to administer an estate of a loved one or need any assistance with disputes or guidance, then our experienced Florida estate planning attorneys can help.
We regularly guide Florida residents through the probate process, ensuring they avoid disputes and complications with creditors.
Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. is U.S. News and World Reports Tier 1 law firm in Florida, specializing in Estate Planning & Probate since 1958. With award-winning experienced estate planning attorneys, they can help you create a will or trust.