One of the most important decisions you will make when preparing your last will and testament is your choice of an Executor. An Executor is the person(s) or entity such as a trust company, who is responsible for seeing that the provisions of your will are carried out.
Upon your death, your Executor will engage an attorney to probate your will, that is, prepare the probate petition and related documentation to file with the New York Surrogate’s Court of the county in which you had your principal residence. If there are no objections to probate, and your will meets the statutory requirements, the court will issue a document called “Letters Testamentary” which is evidence that the will has been admitted to probate and the person named in the will as Executor has been officially appointed.
Once appointed, the Executor has a duty to collect all your assets, and pay all valid debts. Estate assets must be deposited into an Estate account. An Executor must keep detailed records of all assets collected and debts paid as this will be needed to prepare a final accounting of the Executor’s actions. New York State law permits creditors of the estate up to seven (7) months after Letters Testamentary have been issued to file claims. Accordingly, a prudent Executor will keep sufficient estate assets on hand to pay any potential claims.
After seven months have elapsed, the Executor should prepare to make distribution of remaining estate assets to the beneficiaries pursuant to the directives in your will. Usually, prior to making distributions, an Executor will have prepared an informal accounting of all assets collected, debts paid and assets left to be distributed.
The above is only a broad outline of some of the most important duties of an Executor. Additionally, a New York Executor must file an inventory of assets with the court within six months of their appointment. Depending on the nature of the estate’s assets, appraisals of such assets may be necessary. Estate and fiduciary income tax returns may need to be filed. In such cases the advice of an attorney experienced in estate matters is indispensable.