The Role of the Estate Executor
July 12, 2022
Selecting the estate executor is one of the most challenging decisions a person will have to make when creating an estate plan. While being named as an executor (or personal representative) of someone’s estate is a great honor, it is also a big responsibility to take on.
Whether you are named as a personal representative or are thinking about appointing an executor in your estate plan, it is essential to understand the role and duties of the estate executor.
At The Law Offices of Bruce Peotter, we serve people named as an executor in someone’s will or appointed by the court to serve as an executor of a decedent’s estate. From our offices in Englewood, Colorado, and Tustin, California, our estate planning attorneys assist executors in fulfilling their responsibilities. We also help clients with a broad range of other estate planning needs throughout Denver, Colorado, or throughout Orange County, including Irvine, Costa Mesa, and Santa Ana, California.
What Is the Role of an Estate Executor?
An estate executor, also known as a personal representative of an estate, has multiple duties and responsibilities. A person could become an executor if they are named as an executor in someone’s will or are appointed by the court if the decedent did not write a will before their passing.
The role of an estate executor involves many duties, including but not limited to:
Identifying and collecting estate assets
Paying the decedent’s debts and taxes
Settling business affairs
Gathering documents and submitting them to the court
Distributing the decedent’s assets to the intended beneficiaries
The executor has the status of a “fiduciary,” which means executors have an obligation to act in the best interests of the decedent’s estate and the beneficiaries.
Who Can Serve as an Executor?
Every state has different qualification requirements that a person must meet in order to serve as an executor of an estate. In California, a person can be an executor if they are 18 years of age or older and not legally incapacitated. The age requirement for executors in Colorado is 21 years of age or older. Colorado law also requires executors to be in good mental health and not be legally incapacitated.
While many states prohibit those who have a felony conviction on their criminal record from serving as an executor, California and Colorado are not one of them. However, even if a person meets the above-mentioned qualification requirements to be an executor, a probate court can still remove an executor if any grounds for removal exist.
Grounds for Removal of the Executor
Interested parties, including beneficiaries of the estate and creditors, can file a petition asking the court to remove an executor. However, there must be a valid ground for the removal of the estate executor for the court to accept the petition and replace the executor.
The legal proceedings to remove an executor are usually caused by the executor’s incompetence or failure to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Removal of the executor may be possible in situations where the executor:
Fails to fulfill their duties and responsibilities
Fails to comply with court orders
Uses estate assets or funds for personal gain
Mismanages estate assets
Misappropriates the funds
Has a conflict of interest
There is a common misconception that individuals who serve as executors and are also the estate’s beneficiaries have a conflict of interest. Being both an executor and a beneficiary does not create a conflict of interest unless the executor uses their authority to place personal interests above those of other beneficiaries.
Compensation for Estate Executors
There are several ways to provide compensation to an estate executor for putting their time and effort into taking care of the decedent’s assets and finalizing their estate. Some of the most common forms of compensation for executors include:
An hourly rate
A percentage of the gross value of the estate
In the eyes of the law, there is nothing wrong or illegal about accepting compensation for managing the decedent’s estate as long as the compensation is “reasonable.” Usually, the testator specifies how the executor of their estate would be paid when writing a last will and testament. One more thing to keep in mind is that executors get paid by the estate, not the beneficiaries.
Legal Guidance You Can Trust
Understanding the role of the estate executor is essential if you are considering accepting the appointment to serve as an executor. At The Law Offices of Bruce Peotter, our estate planning attorneys in Englewood, Colorado, and Tustin, California, help executors fulfill their obligations and navigate the estate administration or probate process. Get the legal guidance you can trust by reaching out to one of our offices. Our team proudly serves clients throughout Denver, Colorado, or throughout Orange County, including Irvine, Costa Mesa, and Santa Ana, California.