What types of duties fall to the executor of an estate?

Out of a sense of love and loyalty, an heir may feel that is should be his or her duty to serve as an executor of an estate. However, a recent article reminds us of the many obstacles that can arise in estate administration. An attorney that focuses on estate planning can be an excellent resource at such times, offering guidance.

Simply said, upon the death of the grantor, an executor must attend to all matters of the estate. If trusts were established, the trustee may be able to oversee those entities. However, the task of probating a will falls upon the executor. He or she must also attend to any open accounts, such as bank or investment accounts, credit cards, mortgages, and other items. The companies that administer the decedent's accounts generally require presenting copies of the death certificate, as well as access to other pertinent financial information, such as the deceased’s Social Security number and recent transactions or past bills.

An executor may also be called upon to respond to other claims that seem remote, but nevertheless fall under Pennsylvania probate jurisdiction. Such issues might include claims against a fiduciary; will contests or challenges to a trustee’s authority; filing the tax returns of the estate, and possibly trusts, as well as the decedent’s individual tax return; and the administration of business assets or out-of-state property.

A proactive approach may be to name an intended executor as a durable financial power of attorney during the grantor’s life. That designation allows an individual to make financial decisions for the grantor in the event of incapacity. The flexibility of this designation is that the power can be specifically defined and limited. Upon the grantor’s death, the power of attorney is typically extinguished, and the individual begins his or her duties as the executor.


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