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I’ve Been Appointed Executor. Now What? 

KSMH Law Group, PLLC Dec. 29, 2022

When a person dies, their estate—in most cases—must go through probate court for administration for the payment of debts and taxes and the distribution of assets according to their last will and testament. 

There are some exceptions. If there is a living trust, probate proceedings can be avoided. And some assets naturally pass to named beneficiaries outside of probate, such as life insurance policies, retirement plans, and property owned jointly with right of survivorship. 

The person who will oversee the probate process under court supervision is called the executor, who will have been so designated in the decedent’s will, either as the executor or personal representative. When the will-maker passes away, the person named in the will becomes the executor of the estate once the will is presented to the probate court. Generally, the person named in the will is a family member or close friend or associate, who typically will have had no experience in dealing with the tasks involved in distributing someone’s assets and settling their estate.  

If you have been named the executor of an estate and the will-maker has passed away in or around San Antonio, Texas, contact me at KSMH Law Group, PLLC to answer all your questions and guide you through the probate process. Depending on the size of the estate, administration can become complex and challenging, and legal advice and administrative help may prove to be essential.  

My office proudly serves clients in San Antonio, Kirby, Live Oak, Leon Valley, Universal City, and the rest of Texas. 

What Is an Executor? 

The executor is the person a decedent names in their last will and testament to administer their estate when they pass away. If a person dies without a will and their estate must go through probate, the court will name an administrator, whose role is the same as the executor’s but whose title is different. 

Qualifications of an Executor 

According to the Texas Estate Codes, an executor must be 18 years or age or older and of sound mind. The person cannot have been convicted of any felony under federal and state law unless they have been pardoned or had their full civil rights restored. The executor also must not have a conflict of interest in settling the estate or otherwise be “unsuitable.” 

Duties of the Executor 

The first duty of the person appointed in the will is to present the last will and testament to the probate court and petition the court to act as executor. Thereafter, when the executor carries out their duties, the court may or may not get intimately involved, but in either case, the court will require reports and accounts of everything that transpires. 

There are generally two types of probate proceedings: independent administration and dependent administration. For the majority of probates, the executor will be given great independence in administering the estate, which is called independent administration. 

Dependent administration typically occurs when there is infighting among beneficiaries and/or challenges to the will. The court will take a more active role, even to the point of naming its own administrator, to ensure that the rights of the beneficiaries are protected. 

Under independent administration, the executor, once appointed by the court, must first notify beneficiaries and creditors that the probate process is beginning. The executor must then “collect” all assets and manage them, including paying ongoing bills. The executor must also set up an estate bank account in which to place any cash assets or the proceeds from the sale of any assets. 

The next order of business is to make sure that all debts are honored and that taxes are paid wherever they are due. The Social Security Administration (SSA) must also be notified if the decedent was receiving Social Security payments. Often, the last payment received must be paid back. 

Sometimes to honor all obligations, or to fulfil the wishes of the decedent as expressed in their will, the executor will have to sell off assets. This may involve the hiring of appraisers and/or brokers to accomplish the sale in the most efficient and profitable manner. 

Once all obligations have been met, then the executor can distribute the assets as designated in the decedent’s will. Generally, the process will take from six to nine months, but for larger estates, probate can last a year or more 

Payment for the Executor 

Sometimes, monetary payment for the executor’s work will be detailed in the decedent’s will. In any event, the Texas Estate Codes says the executor is entitled to as much as five percent of the estate’s total financial transactions. For example, if an executor settles an estate worth $250,000, they are entitled to $12,500 in compensation. 

Get Experienced & Knowledgeable Legal Help 

Administering a decedent’s estate can involve skills and challenges that the average person may never have developed or faced before. Just meeting the court’s reporting and recordkeeping requirements can be time-consuming and difficult. If someone questions the terms of the will, matters can get rather intense. Your best bet as an executor is to have legal counsel you can rely on when questions and difficulties arise. 

If you have been appointed an executor in or around San Antonio, Texas, contact me at KSMH Law Group, PLLC. I can coach you through the process, and when challenges or tasks become too overwhelming, I can help see you through with a hands-on approach. Reach out as soon as the probate process is beginning, and let’s settle matters efficiently and effectively.