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I’ve Been Appointed Executor of an Estate

Northwest Elder Law Center April 18, 2023

Old man signing last will and testamentBeing appointed as the executor of an estate is a huge responsibility. You may feel honored to be trusted with this task, but it also comes with a lot of work and legal issues to understand. 

By understanding your duties and responsibilities, you can successfully carry out the role of an executor. However, you do not have to do it alone. You can choose to work with an attorney to help guide you through the process. 

Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning helps individuals appointed as executors of someone’s estate to carry out their duties in accordance with the will and in compliance with applicable Washington state laws. With offices in Olympia and Kennewick, Washington, Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning represents clients in Lacey, Tumwater, Shelton, Chehalis, and Centralia.  

What Is an Executor?

In 2020, more than 63,000 Washington residents died due to various causes ranging from COVID-19 to motor vehicle accidents, according to statistics by the Washington State Department of Health. When someone dies, the probate process may be initiated to distribute their assets to surviving family members, and executors play an integral role in this process.  

An executor is a person who is responsible for managing the affairs of a deceased person’s estate. This includes handling their legal documents and debts and distributing the assets to those named in the will or determined by state law. Executors are appointed by the person in their will, and the court will generally honor that choice unless there is a legal reason not to. 

Qualifications to Serve as an Executor

In Washington, the qualifications to serve as an executor are fairly simple. The person must be over 18 years old and be of sound mind. It’s important to note that being an executor requires a significant time commitment, as well as the ability to communicate clearly with family members, lawyers, and financial institutions. If you do not feel comfortable with the responsibilities, it is okay to decline the position. 

Contrary to popular belief, you can refuse to serve as the executor of an estate. It is critical that you are honest with yourself and can assess whether you have the time, energy, and emotional capacity to handle the position. If you do decide to decline, you will need to file a “Renunciation of Appointment” form with the probate court. Once approved, the next person named in the will can serve as executor. If there is no one else named, the court will appoint someone. 

Duties of the Executor

If you have accepted the position, the first step is to file the will with the probate court. You need to provide documentation that proves you are the executor and have the legal right to manage the estate.  

As the executor, you will be required to carry out several duties in order to ensure that everything is managed appropriately. Let’s take a look at some of the main duties of the executor:  

  • Inventory and appraisal. One of the first things you will need to do as executor is prepare an inventory and appraisal of the decedent’s assets. Your job is to determine the value of the assets and report them to the probate court. 

  • Pay debts. You will also be responsible for paying any debts owed by the estate. This could involve paying creditors or settling outstanding bills on behalf of the decedent. In some cases, you may need to sell assets in order to generate funds to pay off debts. 

  • Distribute assets. After debts have been paid and taxes have been deducted, it’s time to distribute assets to the beneficiaries. You need to make sure that each beneficiary receives the appropriate share of the estate according to the terms of the will or the state’s intestacy laws if there is no will. 

  • Keep accurate records. As executor, you must keep accurate records of all income, expenses, and distributions made from the estate. You must file regular reports with the probate court and provide updates to beneficiaries. 

  • File tax returns. Finally, you will need to file tax returns on behalf of the decedent and the estate. This includes income tax returns for the decedent for the year of their death and any returns for the estate. 

Most states allow executors to be compensated for their time and effort. The amount of compensation varies depending on the size and complexity of the estate. Under Washington law, executors are entitled to “reasonable compensation.” 

Seek Trusted Legal Guidance

Being appointed as the executor of an estate is a big responsibility. It requires significant knowledge of legal and financial regulations as well as emotional fortitude to handle the process. You might want to seek trusted legal guidance if you were appointed as the executor of someone’s estate. Contact Attorney Robert Taylor-Manning to get a case review.