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Important Tips for Executor of the Estate

Michael A. Siefert, P.A. June 27, 2023

Person Planning Estate Document with LawyerIf you’ve been named the personal representative in a loved one’s, friend’s, or associate’s last will and testament, then you will become the executor of that person’s estate once they pass away. Being an executor is not exactly what most people are trained for, or experienced in, and many new and unique challenges may arise.   

The probate process, which is the legal proceeding to carry out the desires of a decedent’s last will and testament, can be complex with many court-ordered reporting and documentation requirements. You will often find yourself needing the assistance of an experienced estate planning/probate attorney.  

If you find yourself in the position of being the executor of an estate in or around Ocala, Florida, or anywhere in Marion County, contact the law firm of Michael A. Siefert, P.A. for trustworthy legal help. I have more than three decades of experience in helping administer estates under probate, and I can help you resolve any difficult challenges and work toward a smooth administration of assets. 

Important Tips for the Executor of an Estate 

Probate in Florida can take different forms depending on the value of the assets in the decedent’s estate. Formal probate applies when those assets exceed $75,000. Summary probate, a quicker process, applies when assets are less than $75,000.   

A third option, disposition without administration, can apply if there are no outstanding debts and assets that do not exceed the cost of the decedent’s medical, funeral, and burial expenses in the last 60 days of their life.   

If you are an executor named in a will, your first responsibility is to present the death certificate and a copy of the will to the court to be officially declared the executor. In legal terms, this is called filing letters testamentary. Being named executor allows you to deal with all aspects of the estate, pay debt obligations from assets, file taxes, sell assets as needed, and in the ultimate sense, award assets to beneficiaries named in the will.  

Even as you deal with the court requirements, you will need to take care of many practical and emotional matters, such as notifying family and friends of their loved one’s passing.   

Other considerations include taking care of any pets, canceling subscriptions or streaming services, notifying Social Security or the Veterans Administration as applicable, and informing beneficiaries of life insurance or retirement accounts. These latter pass to the named beneficiaries without probate court proceedings. 

Hire an Estate Administration Attorney 

Being an executor is not something that most people are trained to do. There can be many legal issues and even challenges that arise. Relatives and other would-be beneficiaries can always object to the terms of the will, based on undue influence or reduced mental capacity. In addition, unknown creditors can appear out of the blue. Also, the probate court will demand strict accounting of everything that happens.   

Therefore, you should have as your trusted counselor an experienced probate/estate administration attorney to see the process through as smoothly and quickly as possible.  

Practical Considerations 

The probate process exists to ensure that everyone, including creditors, has their interests protected. This requires under Florida law that the executor not only notify known creditors but also publish a legal notice for unknown creditors. All debts must be discharged before any assets can be awarded to beneficiaries under the terms of the decedent’s will.     

Taxes also must be paid. Social Security must receive a notification, and generally, that agency will look to recover any payments that occurred after the recipient’s death. The Veterans Administration, if involved, must also be notified and perhaps reimbursed. Fortunately, private retirement savings such as a 401(k), IRA, or other will pass directly to the named beneficiary or beneficiaries outside of probate, as will insurance policies.  

The executor must take charge of the decedent’s assets. This may involve the sale of real property. For example, a residential home and even the disposition of other assets, such as art collections, vehicles, or really anything held in the decedent’s name only. Joint assets, including property held in co-tenancy with the right of survivorship, will transfer outside of probate.    

You, as the executor, will need to open a bank account to transfer cash assets or proceeds from a sale or auction. When all credit obligations have been met, and all remaining assets managed and placed under your control as the executor, then the court will allow you to carry out the wishes of the decedent and distribute assets to beneficiaries as provided for in the will.    

Work closely with your probate/estate administration attorney throughout the process. The probate court will require strict accounting and documentation. 

Help When You Need It Most 

Being an executor of an estate is emotional and stressful. Many individuals and entities (such as creditors) will have control over what you can and cannot do.   

If you find yourself in the role of an executor of an estate in or around Ocala, Florida, reach out immediately. Contact my law firm, Michael A. Siefert, P.A., for dependable legal assistance. I have decades of experience handling estate/probate administration and can guide you through the entire process.