The role of an executor is incredibly important when the time comes to divide and distribute any assets, estates, and other items belonging to a loved one. It is never too early to plan for the future, and having an attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of post-death planning is crucial. The right attorney can assist in making this often complex process seem much smoother and easier to manage, especially during a sensitive time.
Responsibilities of an Executor
The fiduciary responsibility of an executor or an administrator are in very broad terms, to marshal the assets of the estate, to pay any legally enforceable debts, and then to make distribution of the estate assets pursuant to the terms of the last will and testament, or pursuant to the terms of the Virginia laws of intestacy.
Generally, the role and responsibilities of an executor will include actions such as searching for assets belonging to the estate, inventorying those assets, valuing them as of the date of death, reviewing any debts or expenses presented, and ensuring that any required tax returns, whether they are estate or income tax returns, are filed, and then creating a plan for the distribution of the assets. In addition, in Virginia, an administrator’s duties do involve notifying the commissioner of accounts of any change in address.
Changing the Executor
If an individual wants to be removed after being appointed the executor, and cannot fill the role effectively, then only the court can remove him/her and that would require another personal representative being ready to be appointed at the time that the original personal representative wants to be removed. Then, the executor must request from the court removal, pay the associated filing fee, and then the court has to grant the motion to remove the executor.
In the event that an individual is not following through with all the roles of being an executor, then he or she may be removed by the court from serving as the administrator and replaced with an individual who is better able to perform the fiduciary obligations of the estate.
If the individual moves, then he or she must inform the commissioner of accounts of his/her change in address. Being an executor or administrator in Virginia does not require that the individual be a Virginia resident, but if they are not a Virginia resident, then they do need to bring a Virginia resident with them to the initial meeting to be appointed.
If a special administrator cannot take responsibility or ends up dying, another executor or administrator will be appointed to serve and to continue on where the first executor left off. There is a filing fee that’s required for removal, and then also the petitioning individual must file motions with the court to be appointed as a successor executor or the alternate administrator.
Process After Being Appointed Executor
After being appointed, then the executor marshals the assets of the estate, and that includes searching for all of the assets that are in the decedent’s sole name as of the date of death, and valuing those assets as of the date of death. In addition, the role of the executor may also include seeking to value assets that were jointly titled or beneficiary-driven that would pass the probate process, so that a gross taxable estate can be calculated to determine whether any federal estate tax may be due.
Marshaling the assets typically involves contacting the financial institutions or the banks where a decedent either passed away or the decedent invested or banked and applied for an employee identification number, so that the bank accounts can be transferred to an estate account. The proper attorney can assist in making this process seem less overwhelming and simpler to execute.