What Are Your Duties as Executor?

signing documents

As the executor of a Tennessee estate, you are in the role of a fiduciary, meaning that you are acting for the benefit of the estate.

According to the American Bar Association, the following are your primary responsibilities as executor.

Accessing accounts

For most accounts, your first task will be gaining formal authorization to access them. This refers to the Letters Testamentary, which you receive from the court, and the death certificate. You may have to file a claim in order to secure the insurance.

Valuing tangible assets

Tangible assets such as furniture, cars, art and jewelry will need to be appraised by a professional. Having an exact monetary value placed on the estate is important because you will need to assess whether the insurance coverage is sufficient to continue to protect the assets. It is also necessary because the estate may be subject to tax, and the amount owed is based on the value of the estate.

Filing tax returns

Tax returns you may have to file include the decedent’s final income tax return for the year of his or her death and any previous years that may have extensions on the returns. Whether you must file federal and state estate tax returns depends on whether the value of the estate before deductions is more than the amount set as estate tax exemption.

Paying debts

Some debts must be paid immediately in order to protect the estate, such as insurance premiums or taxes, but eventually, all creditors must be satisfied. This should be completed before you begin distributing assets to beneficiaries. If a creditor goes unpaid and the estate has already been distributed, you can request that beneficiaries refund the portion of their inheritance that should go for payment, but often, the executor ends up being responsible for the missed debt.

Distributing assets

There may be broad distribution instructions in the will, such as dividing the value of the estate among heirs, but there are often also specific gifts to be made from tangible property or cash. Typically, you must distribute these gifts before moving on to take care of the balance of the property.

This is a general overview of the duties of an executor; therefore, the information presented here should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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