An executor is the person in charge of managing a deceased person’s estate and is identified in the will. If a person dies “intestate,” which means without a will, the person in charge of the estate is called an “administrator” rather than an executor, however they perform the same functions.
An executor has multiple responsibilities to include: making an inventory of the estate’s property, obtaining appraisals, paying debts and expenses, opening a checking account for the estate, maintaining financial records, filing tax returns, and distributing property. Executors can be compensated for their duties from estate funds. Additionally, if an Executor hires an attorney to assist with probate, those fees are also taken from estate funds.
Although an Executor may be identified by name in the will, there is also a Surrogate’s Court proceeding to formally appoint the Executor and through this proceeding the Court gives him or her fiduciary powers. This means that they must represent the interests of the estate of the deceased. Each county in New York has a Surrogate’s Court. An experienced attorney can assist with the necessary preparations for the court process and in any probate of the will.
During the course of the court proceeding, usually will validity is established. However there are times where will validity is contested and there may even be competing versions of a will presented. Contested probate proceedings can become quite complex. On the other hand, not all estates even go through probate. One common example of an estate that avoids probate is when the deceased left all of his assets to his spouse and there are no competing beneficiaries. An experienced attorney can assist with any legal needs pertaining to the probate process.