Steps to Take as an Executor—Part 2

Bob Shaw - Steps to Take as an Executor—Part 2In my last article, we discussed everything the executor can do before being officially appointed as an executor. This post will outline everything the executor does after they receive their appointment from the court.

The process the proposed executor must follow to get the will successfully probated is to submit a petition with the original will which lists all the interested parties. The petition also includes consents to probate of those who would inherit if the person died without a will. The process can take several weeks.

If there is an emergency situation, such as the danger of an asset being stolen by someone not entitled to the property or an existing contract with a third party to sell the house, then the proposed executor can ask the court for preliminary letters of appointment.

One officially becomes the executor when they receive Letters of Testamentary from the surrogate’s court after a will is accepted for probate.

Once the executor is officially appointed, the Letters Testamentary serve as proof of authority when dealing with interim and future beneficiaries, creditors of the estate, and the custodians of various assets owned by the deceased. The appointed executor should do the following:

  1. Seek an order from the surrogate’s court to open the decedent’s safe deposit box and examine its contents. The executor must take the court order to the bank before the bank will schedule the box opening.
  2. Open an estate checking account for bill paying. The bank should be located within New York State, but the executor does not have to be a resident of New York.
  3. Close the decedent’s existing bank account and transfer the money to the estate checking account.
  4. Set up an estate savings or money market account to receive income that continues to be earned on the decedent’s assets. These assets can also be liquidated and the proceeds deposited in the estate account.
  5. Instruct financial institutions to distribute any IRA or company retirement plan assets to the named beneficiaries. These are non-probate assets—assets which do not pass under the will. The distinction between probate and non-probate assets is important for a number of reasons, including probate filing fees and creditor’s rights.
  6. Wait seven months after the Letters Testamentary date of issuance before distributing probate assets to beneficiaries. The granting of probate by the surrogate’s court also acts as notice to creditors of the decedent to file any claims against the estate. The creditors have seven months from the date the letters testamentary were issued in which to file a notice of claim in the surrogate’s court. The executor should not make distributions to beneficiaries during this period unless they are sure they will retain enough assets to cover administrative expenses, including funeral bills, legal fees, accounting fees, and any executor or trustee commissions.
  7. Prepare an estate accounting for the beneficiaries. This should list the income received by the estate, the expenses paid, and the assets that are under the executor’s management. It saves time and money to do an informal accounting as opposed to a judicial accounting formally approved by the surrogate’s court. The executor, however, will need the consent of all beneficiaries to do an informal accounting.
  8. Obtain a “receipt and release” from all beneficiaries. The “receipt and release” is a document by which the beneficiaries accept the accounting, agree to release the executor from his duties, and hold him harmless against any of his actions. If the estate has charitable beneficiaries, the New York State Attorney General’s Office may be an interested party. In that event, the executor should seek a “no objections” letter from the Attorney General after sending the accounting.

The estate cannot be closed until all assets have been distributed to the beneficiaries, all creditor claims settled, and all expenses paid or settled.

You can see from the amount of detail involved that a person nominated to be executor of an estate would do well to seek the guidance of an attorney to assist throughout the process, from start to finish. Please contact me for assistance.

Robert Shaw

Robert W. Shaw, Esq.
(914) 328-1222

E-mail Bob


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Robert W. Shaw is licensed in New York.