What responsibilities do executors owe beneficiaries?

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2021 | Estate Administration, Probate Administration |

It took time for you to get comfortable with serving as a loved one’s executor. You want to do right not only by your loved one but also by her or his beneficiaries.

SmartAsset breaks down executor obligations. Understand the role you play in a beneficiary’s life.

Prompt distribution

You owe it to beneficiaries to distribute estate assets promptly. The definition of “promptly” varies across state lines, with some implementing a year deadline while others do not have a written time limit. This does not mean you must rush to distribute assets, just that you should not waste time.

Beneficiary notification

As soon as possible, let beneficiaries know about their status in their loved one’s estate. Informing them of their status lets them contest the will if they take issue with its contents. While notification methods vary from state to state, a good bet is to send beneficiaries a document. Giving written notices reduces the chances of parties saying you did not give them notice of their status.

Right to information

Beneficiaries also have a right to access details about probate court and the estate. If asked, you must share the estate’s contents and debts and how you plan to clear those debts. Rather than provide in-depth financial statements, you satisfy this obligation by keeping beneficiaries in the loop regarding your activities.

Proper distribution

You need not distribute assets as soon as you send out beneficiary notifications. It may take several months before beneficiaries receive anything from the estate, and you may need to prioritize clearing debts before distributing assets.

Beneficiaries and executors alike have estate planning responsibilities. By understanding the role you play, you better ensure you do a good job.