Choosing your estate’s executor is one of the most important decisions you make during the estate planning process, since this will be the person who will administer your estate when you die. The executor becomes the actual manager of your property during probate, which is the legal process that settles your estate – but at what point will they distribute your property to those you named in your will?
During the period of estate administration, the property belongs to the executor and is managed by them, as they are responsible for gathering and safeguarding your assets. The executor is also tasked with valuing the property of the deceased, which will normally require appraisals. They then determine if the estate is solvent, meaning there are more assets than liabilities or insolvent, meaning there is more debt than assets. If the estate is solvent, the executor must pay the debt, funeral expenses, and taxes. Anyone who has a claim against the estate has a specific time frame to notify the estate, which varies from state to state, from the date of the publication of the estate notice in the newspaper to come forward.
It is only during that time that the executor could receive bills or claims against the estate’s assets. The decedent’s final federal and state income tax returns must be filed by the executor, as well. If there is property that avoided probate, such as life insurance, pension benefits, or joint property, the executor must also value these assets and report them to the tax authorities. As you can see, the more organized and documented your estate is, the easier it will be for your executor.
It is only after all of these executor’s duties are completed that they then make the bequests that were documented in your will. Since this process takes from 6-12 months, the beneficiaries should realize that they will not receive their inheritance immediately, and the bills are paid first.
Estate planning allows you to plan for the legalities of your estate, and if getting an inheritance to your children quickly is a priority, an estate planning attorney can recommend ways that allow property to avoid probate to get the inheritance in their hands and out of your executor’s.