Executor or Personal Representative Duties, Powers and Responsibilities

This involves where there is a will.  If there is no will, most of the same duties and responsibilities apply.

The executor should not dispose of assets until letters of testamentary are issues other than paying for funeral expenses.

Powers are outlined in the Mississippi statutes but the will can contain additional powers, as well as exclude powers.

Duties of the executor include, but are not limited to:

  1. Notify banks, brokers, attorneys, accountants, beneficiaries, agents and others about the death of the deceased.
  2. Make sure any agent of a Power of attorney is notified the POA is no longer valid.  Also notify banks, etc of this.
  3. Open a bank account in the name of the estate for maintaining cash of the estate.
  4. Contact life insurance companies for form 712c, a life insurance statement.
  5. Advise the Social Security Administration and if applicable, the VA and inquire about any death, or survivor benefits (like spouse)
  6. Collecting assets.
  7. Compel anyone that has assets but will not provide them to provide them via court petition
  8. Preserving assets
  9. Collecting and paying bills filed for payment in the probate
  10. Accessing safe deposit box, if one, and inventory the contents.  Also cancel the box.
  11. Communication with beneficiaries
  12. Hire attorney
  13. Hire accountant if needed
  14. Hires brokers and investment advisors, if needed
  15. Continue any business of the deceased
  16. Get tax id number for estate as needed
  17. Inventory and filing it with the court unless waived
  18. Appraisal of assets for estate tax purposes as needed.
  19. Obtain last tax return to help identify assets and prepare to file final income tax return.
  20. Locate logins to online accounts of the deceased
  21. Identify any subscriptions of the deceased for anything
  22. Cancel any drivers license and any passport
  23. Notify any licensors of the death, such as associations
  24. Notify proper office to remove deceased from voting list
  25. Disbursing assets as directed in the will to the beneficiaries.  You can get a receipt for them to sign.  Some attorneys may want the beneficiaries to sign a release and indemnification agreement releasing the executor (and sometimes the attorney) from all potential liabilities.
  26. Closing the estate

You should work with your attorney and provide all information needed to the attorney to properly advise you. This includes list of assets of any kind whether the property passes through the estate or not so that can be verified, insurance policies, list and copy of debts like mortgages, and all other assets, whether personal or real property, IRA’s, Stock, intellectual property and discuss access you have to online accounts of the deceased.

Although some assets may pass outside probate, you should know what property this applies to and discuss with your attorney to confirm.

If there is an existing trust, a copy should be provided to the attorney.

Executor’s can be compensated or not. It will generally depend on whether the executor wants compensation. If the will provides there should be no compensation, the court can nevertheless grant compensation, especially in complicated estates. The fee just has to be reasonable and is set by the court.

The executor can generally reimbursed for any attorney fees paid by the executor from his or her funds.

An executor can be liable if he or she does not meet the fiduciary duty standards in administration of the estate, not acting as a reasonable prudent inventory would act in handling investments, and other grounds.  To assist avoid liabilities the executor should keep details records.  Executor should seek financial advice from a professional.

As a brief summary, an executor or personal representative is an individual appointed by a deceased person (referred to as the testator) to carry out the instructions specified in their will and administer their estate. The duties, powers, and responsibilities of an executor are controlled by state law and the specific instructions outlined in the will. However, there are some common elements that generally apply. Here is an overview:

  1. Probate Process: The executor’s first responsibility is to initiate the probate process. This involves filing the will with the appropriate court and proving its validity. The executor may need to obtain legal counsel and submit the necessary documentation to the court.
  2. Asset Identification and Inventory: The executor is responsible for identifying and locating all of the assets owned by the deceased. This may include bank accounts, real estate, investments, personal belongings, and other properties. Once identified, the executor needs to create a detailed inventory of these assets.
  3. Debts and Claims: The executor must notify creditors and potential claimants of the death and handle any outstanding debts owed by the deceased. This involves reviewing and validating claims, paying off debts using estate funds, and disputing any invalid claims.
  4. Estate Management: The executor is responsible for managing the estate during the probate process. This may include securing and managing property, maintaining assets, and ensuring that any necessary insurance coverage is in place.
  5. Tax Obligations: The executor must file the deceased person’s final tax returns, including income tax returns for the year of death and, if applicable, estate tax returns. They must also settle any tax liabilities using estate funds.
  6. Distribution of Assets: After all debts, taxes, and expenses have been paid, the executor is responsible for distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as specified in the will. This may involve selling assets, transferring property titles, or distributing cash and personal belongings.
  7. Accounting and Reporting: Throughout the probate process, the executor must maintain accurate and detailed records of all financial transactions, including income, expenses, and distributions. They may need to provide periodic accounting reports to the court and beneficiaries.
  8. Communication and Legal Matters: The executor acts as a liaison between the court, beneficiaries, and other parties involved in the estate administration process. They may need to correspond with attorneys, financial institutions, government agencies, and other professionals.
  9. Fiduciary Duty: As a fiduciary, the executor has a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. They must carry out their duties with diligence, honesty, and transparency, avoiding any conflicts of interest.

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All content is for informational purposes only. It is also only intended to relate to Mississippi Estate Planning Law.  If other states are mentioned, they are mentioned as an example only. No legal advice is provided in this content. Laws change so you need to check for any updates by current laws in Mississippi.