Do you know what is expected of you if you are the Executor of an estate or a will in Texas? There are quite a few duties and obligations that are the legal obligation of the Executor of an estate, so let’s look at the process step by step. Taking the time to learn more and be prepared for your role as Executor will help you feel more confident should you ever be called upon to serve this important role. Especially if you will be the Executor of an estate for a close family member or other loved one, you should be knowledgeable and prepared in advance so you don’t have to add a learning curve to your time of grief.
Appointment of the Executor
Exactly how do you become the Executor of an estate? This can happen in one of two ways:
- Someone names you as the Executor in their Will. This is probably the most common scenario. But most people don’t realize that even when you are named as Executor in a Will, a Texas court must still legally appoint you to complete the process. The Court will almost always appoint the person named in the Will, but there are exceptions if someone else has a big issue with the person named as Executor.
- You ask the Court to appoint you as Executor. If a family member or loved one passes away without a Will, you can ask the Probate Court to appoint you as the Executor of the estate. You must file an application with the Court. You will have to provide some information about your relationship to the deceased, and if there are others who apply to be the Executor, the Court may decide based on the closest family relationship or who is most likely to be entitled to inherit any property from the decedent.
Once the Probate Court has legally appointed an Executor, the Court will grant “letters testamentary,” which serve as evidence of the Executor’s appointment and authority. This empowers you to deal with others about the estate’s affairs, including banks, creditors, heirs, and others.
Responsibilities of the Executor
Once you have been granted the Letters Testamentary, you are ready to go to work. There are many responsibilities to fulfill as Executor of an estate, and you are now legally required to complete these tasks properly and in accordance with the wishes of the decedent outlined in legal documents such as the Will or a trust. This is why most Executors enlist the help of an attorney with Probate experience instead of trying to do it on their own. The following are some key tasks that an Executor must complete:
- Notify Creditors: Contact all creditors and let them know the account holder has passed away; get all final bills and pay them off the estate, assuming there is enough money to do so.
- Manage Property: If there is a home that will be inherited or sold at some point, it must be maintained in the meantime. You are responsible for keeping the property secure and in good condition, which may include utilities, maintenance, landscaping, and more. This can be paid for by the estate, just keep track of all expenses.
- Distribute Assets: After you pay all the bills and debts, you can distribute the assets that remain according to the wishes of the deceased. This would include personal belongings, such as clothing, jewelry, furniture, and other household items. It also includes any money in bank accounts, investment accounts, properties, and more.
- Close the Estate: Closing out the estate involves wrapping up all the final details, including all taxes, fees to attorneys, accountants, etc.
Get the Help You Need
Acting as an Executor of an estate can be a challenge, not only because it involves many complex tasks and responsibilities, but also because it all needs to be done at a time immediately following the death of a loved one. Consult an attorney about the Probate process to make sure you have all your bases covered before you try to go it alone.