When someone dies, what happens to their stuff? Financial accounts or insurance proceeds, may pass to beneficiaries right away. Other assets will be distributed after a probate proceeding, which can take one to three years. What if some assets need attention after the person’s death and before the estate is settled? Who will care for assets during probate?
An Executor’s Responsibilities
Probate is the court proceeding where the court validates the deceased person’s Last Will and Testament, and decide who will serve as executor or personal representative. Estates may be settled quickly or may drag on for years. The executor must handle the estate responsibly and settle the estate completely.
When it comes to the assets of an estate, the executor’s responsibilities include:
Identifying & Gathering
As quickly as practical, the personal representative should find all the decedent’s personal property, financial accounts, real estate, and any other assets that should be part of the estate. Some investigation and review of public records may be required, especially if the decedent’s records are not well organized.
Protecting & Securing
With a few exceptions, the executor must “take possession or control of, the decedent’s property” until the property can be transferred to the appropriate heir. The executor then secures the property from vandalism, destruction, embezzlement, or theft. It’s not unheard of for potential heirs to remove valuable personal property from a home shortly after the owner has passed away or to steal money from bank accounts. The executor’s job is to keep the estate as intact and as valuable as it was on the day of the owner’s death.
An executor has the “same power of the title to property of the estate” that the owner had. This may require the executor to pay taxes and manage some assets. Property can also be sold if the sale is in the best interests of the estate.
Preparing An Inventory
The executor will prepare an inventory of the estate and send copies to all known heirs within 90 days of being appointed. The fair market value of assets must be included in the inventory. The executor may hire qualified appraisers to come up with the fair market value.
Paying Debts & Claims
It’s also important for an executor to pay all debts of an estate. First, the executor will find out if creditors and claims exist, then decide if the claims are valid. Then the executor pays the debts and claims in full if there are enough estate assets. If unable to pay the claims in full, the executor will pay creditors in the order set by Arizona state law.
Whenever possible, an executor distributes the assets of the estate according to law and the terms of the Will.
At All Times, A Personal Representative Must Act In The Best Interests Of The Estate & Beneficiaries
A bad executor may let your property wallow in limbo, erasing its value through delays or outright malfeasance. When choosing an executor for your estate, look for a competent person who will care for your assets just as well as you have.
To discuss your concerns with an experienced Arizona lawyer, or to receive a free case evaluation, call us at (480) 418-8448. We offer services for clients throughout Arizona, including Chandler, Gilbert, Sun Lakes, Tempe, Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, and Apache Junction.