For families in New York who are preparing their estates, one of the key questions in estate planning is the role of the executor. An executor is an important person who makes decisions and helps to facilitate the progress of the estate settlement process, so it is important to understand exactly what their responsibilities and abilities are.
The executor’s duties
The executor has important tasks to carry out. They need to use the assets and money in the estate to pay out any outstanding debts owed, pay off any and all taxes that are due, and then transfer the assets to the heirs according to the will. The executor has the authority to use the money in the estate to do this work, but they do not have the final say on every decision and choice with respect to the estate’s assets. The executor has a fiduciary duty to the estate. That means they have to act in the estate’s best interest, not their own best interest.
The executor has broad but not unlimited leeway to make the decisions that will maximize the estate’s value and clear it of any financial obligations. They can work with lawyers, accounts and probate court to understand what they need to do; executors don’t need to do all of the tax law research and accounting themselves. Hiring professionals is an extra expense, but it might be the best move to resolve outstanding issues with an estate.
The process of settling an estate is the executor’s responsibility. They are required to act in the interest of the estate and its heirs, not their own best interest, so any executor who fails in this duty may be held accountable by the heirs.