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George H. Gray

What is an Executor?

An Executor is the person you name in your Will who is “in-charge” of your affairs after your death.

An Executor is the person you name in your Will who is “in-charge” of your affairs after your death. The authority of an agent under a Power of Attorney to act on your behalf ceases at your death, and he or she can no longer access your bank or brokerage accounts or speak with custodians of your private information. It is the named Executor who generally commences the Probate Process to seek the issuance of “Letters Testamentary.” It is these “Letters” (generally evidenced by “Certificates of Letters”) which grant to your Executor the authority to administer your affairs after your death. Not until “Letters” are issued by the Court is anyone authorized to act on your behalf after your death.

The Executor has the sole power and authority (subject to the Court’s supervision) to marshal and safeguard your assets, to pay claims against your Estate and to make distributions to the beneficiaries. Your Executor owes the beneficiaries of the Estate a fiduciary duty to act with impartiality, free of any conflicts of interest and with complete transparency. Your Executor must account to the beneficiaries of the Estate for his or her acts on behalf of the Estate; including a final accounting of the nature and value of the assets marshaled, the claims paid or protested (including administrative expenses), the nature and amount of taxes paid, distributions made to beneficiaries and any other pertinent information related to the administration of your Estate. While not often taken in a “family” situation, your Executor has the right to collect a commission for his or her actions based upon a formula found in the New York Statute.

In most instances, your choice of Executor is obvious: your spouse, your life companion or an adult child. Since the bulk of the work performed by the Executor involves your property and financial affairs, your choice of Executor should possess strong organizational and financial skills. In most cases, the job of an Executor is of limited duration, lasting twelve to twenty-four months after your death.

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