The executor of a will has several important responsibilities when enforcing a New Yorker’s will and administering an estate.
In cases where a person dies without a will, the appropriate Surrogate’s Court will appoint an administrator of the estate. Although this person’s title is different, she will have basically the same responsibilities.
The estate administration responsibilities of an executor are broad and can involve some complicated processes, especially in large estates.
Basically, the executor’s job is to gather all of an estate’s probate assets and put them into the name of the estate.
The executor must also properly notify both prospective creditors and beneficiaries of important steps throughout the process. She will have to decide whether to pay any claims against the estate, and she may elect to challenge the claims instead.
After claims get paid, and within the time limits set by New York law, the executor should distribute what is left in the estate to beneficiaries and then formally close the estate.
Throughout the process, the executor must make sure that his filings with the court and taxing authorities are accurate and complete. He also must manage the estate impartially and carefully. Accurate recordkeeping and a careful segregation of the estate’s funds is critical.
The consequences of neglecting one’s duties as an executor are serious
If an executor neglects her responsibilities, the beneficiaries of the estate may be the ones to suffer.
An executor’s mistakes can for example lead to adverse tax consequences, overpayment of claims, or the unnecessary loss of funds. Sometimes, the executor can only blame herself for the eruption of litigation over the handling of the estate.
As a fiduciary, an executor may also face personal liability for his mistakes, meaning he may have to reimburse the estate from his personal funds for any losses.
An executor of any New York estate should be sure he understands his legal obligations and options.