Meinzer Law Firm, PC

Probate basics: the executor of a will

Many Californians have heard of the probate process, but not everyone fully understands what it entails.

The executor of an estate is an individual who is tasked with carrying out the terms of a will.

But he or she may be expected to do much more than distribute assets to a deceased individual's loved ones. For example, an executor may have to identify and locate all estate property before paying off creditors and taxes. Also, the executor must contact all heirs so that assets can be distributed properly. He or she will also be responsible for ensuring that the will goes through probate court if necessary.

But an executor's duties don't end there. Instead, he or she is also responsible for wrapping up a deceased individual's affairs, such as cancelling credit cards and utilities. The government must also be notified to ensure that benefits are ceased. If ongoing payments need to be made, such as to maintain a mortgage until the asset transfers to an heir, then the executor must handle that, too.

These are just some of the many duties that the executor of an estate must fulfill. It can be a heavy burden to serve in this capacity and, even though these individuals are paid a fee for their services, they cannot profit off of the estate itself. Instead, they must act in a way that furthers the estate's best interests. Failing to do so could result in legal action.

Those who engage in estate planning can name the executor of their will, but this must be done carefully to ensure that the estate is properly handled and that a beloved family member or friend doesn't become overwhelmed or subject to unwanted conflict.

This is why it is often best to discuss these matters with an estate planning attorney who can help walk an individual through the estate planning and probate processes so that they can make decisions that they feel are best for their estate and their loved ones.

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