Executor’s Duties and Responsibilities in Georgia

Executors Duties and Responsibilities in Georgia

Managing an estate as an executor in Georgia involves a variety of responsibilities, from legal filings to distributing assets. 

This guide provides an in-depth look at what you can expect if you are appointed as an executor.

Table of Contents

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Understanding the Role of an Executor

An executor, or personal representative, is legally appointed to manage the affairs of a deceased person’s estate. 

The role requires a blend of diligence, honesty, and a commitment to the wishes of the deceased as laid out in their will. 

The process begins with the validation of the will through probate.

This is where the executor:

  • presents the document to the court 
  • formally requests the courts to implement the will’s terms

Who Can Be An Executor In Georgia?

Here are the requirements to be an executor in Georgia:

  • Age Requirement: The person must be at least 18 years old.
  • Mental Competence: The executor needs to be capable of making decisions and handling the tasks needed to manage an estate.
  • No Felony Convictions: People who have been convicted of a felony are usually not allowed to be executors, unless they have had their rights officially restored.
  • Residency: The executor doesn’t need to live in Georgia, but if they don’t, they might need to choose someone who does live in Georgia to handle legal matters within the state.
  • Willingness to Serve: Being an executor involves a lot of work, and the person named in the will can choose not to take on this role.
  • Approval by Probate Court: The court needs to approve the person named as executor. If anyone objects to the person chosen, the court might decide to appoint someone else.

Legal Responsibilities of an Executor

The executor’s legal duties are extensive and form the backbone of their responsibilities. 

Key tasks of being an executor include:

  • Filing the Will and Starting Probate: Initially, the executor must locate the will, file it with the probate court in the county where the deceased lived, and apply to open the probate estate.
  • Notifying Creditors and the Public: Georgia law requires executors to notify creditors and the public about the deceased’s passing. This allows creditors to claim any debts owed by the estate.
  • Preparing and Filing Inventory: Within a specified period, the executor needs to file an inventory of the estate’s assets with the court, detailing everything from property to stocks.

Read More: Cost Of A Probate Lawyer In Georgia

Filing the Will and Starting Probate

The process of filing the will and initiating probate is essential to managing the deceased’s estate legally. 

Here’s how you can handle this task:

  1. Locate the Will: The first step is to find the last will and testament of the deceased. This document is often kept in a safe place like a safe deposit box, home safe, or with an attorney.
  2. File the Will with Probate Court: Take the will to the probate court in the county where the deceased lived. You will need to bring a certified copy of the death certificate along with the original will.
  3. Apply to Open Probate: While at the court, complete and submit an application or petition to open the probate estate. This application should include your details as the proposed executor and the details of the will.
  4. Pay Any Required Fees: There may be fees associated with filing the will and opening probate. These fees can vary by county.
  5. Await Appointment: The court will review the will and your application. If everything is in order, they will issue documents that officially appoint you as the executor.

Read More: Georgia Probate Checklist

Notifying Creditors and the Public

Notifying creditors and the public about the deceased’s passing is a legal requirement.

It ensures all potential claimants can come forward to make their claims. 

Follow these steps to be legally compliant for the probate notices:

  1. Publish a Notice in a Local Newspaper: You are required to publish a notice of the decedent’s death in a local newspaper. This notice should run for a set period, often four weeks, to inform potential creditors.
  2. Direct Notifications: Besides the public notice, you should also directly notify known creditors using the contact information available from the deceased’s financial documents. Send these notifications via certified mail to ensure there’s proof of delivery.
  3. Keep Records: Maintain records of all notices sent out, including details of whom you contacted, when, and how. This documentation will be crucial for court and tax purposes.

Read More: How Probate Works in Georgia

Preparing and Filing Inventory of the Estate

Creating a thorough inventory of the estate’s assets is critical for proper administration. 

Here’s how to compile and file this inventory:

  1. Gather Documentation: Collect all financial documents, such as bank statements, deeds, titles, and stock certificates, that represent the estate’s assets.
  2. List All Assets: Create a detailed list of all assets, including real estate, vehicles, valuable personal belongings, financial accounts, and stocks. Include descriptions and estimated values.
  3. Get Appraisals: For high-value items like real estate and antiques, consider getting professional appraisals to establish accurate values.
  4. Complete Inventory Form: Use the inventory form provided by the probate court or an attorney to record all assets formally. Make sure to list everything comprehensively.
  5. File Inventory with the Court: Submit the completed inventory to the probate court. This filing usually must be done within a certain time frame from the date you are appointed as executor, often 60 days.
  6. Keep Copies: Always keep copies of the filed inventory for your records and potential future disputes or claims.

Read More: Why Would You Need A Probate Attorney

Financial Management and Duties

The executor has financial management and duties that include:

  • Manage Estate Finances: This includes setting up estate bank accounts and managing funds. The executor pays debts, taxes, and ongoing expenses like mortgages and utilities.
  • Handling Taxes: One of the most complex duties is handling the deceased’s final personal income taxes and estate taxes. Executors must ensure that all tax obligations are met to avoid penalties.
  • Asset Distribution: After debts and taxes are settled, the executor distributes the remaining assets according to the will. This requires careful attention to detail to adhere strictly to the terms specified by the deceased.

Managing Estate Finances

Effectively managing the finances of an estate is crucial for fulfilling the executor’s responsibilities. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to managing estate finances:

  1. Open an Estate Bank Account: Create a new bank account in the name of the estate to keep the deceased’s funds separate from personal funds. This account will be used for all incoming and outgoing payments related to the estate.
  2. Consolidate Assets: Transfer any funds from the deceased’s personal accounts into the estate account. This may include checking, savings, and investment accounts.
  3. Continue Payment of Necessary Expenses: Use the estate account to pay ongoing expenses such as mortgages, utilities, and insurance premiums. Keeping these payments up to date is important to maintain the value of the estate’s assets.
  4. Record All Transactions: Maintain meticulous records of all financial transactions, including incoming funds and outgoing payments. This is crucial for accurate accounting and reporting to the probate court and beneficiaries.

Handling Taxes

Dealing with taxes can be one of the most complex parts of managing an estate. 

Here’s how to handle the deceased’s taxes and the estate’s tax responsibilities:

  1. Consult a Tax Professional: Consider hiring an accountant or tax attorney who specializes in estate taxes to help navigate the complexities of tax filings.
  2. File Final Personal Income Tax Returns: Prepare and file the deceased’s final state and federal personal income tax returns. This includes income received in the year of their death.
  3. Prepare Estate Tax Returns: If the estate exceeds certain thresholds, it may be liable for federal estate taxes. You will need to file an estate tax return within nine months of the deceased’s death, unless an extension is granted.
  4. Pay Any Owed Taxes: Ensure that all tax liabilities are paid from the estate funds. This includes personal taxes owed by the deceased and any taxes due from the estate itself.
  5. Keep Documentation: Retain copies of all filed tax returns and receipts for payments made. This documentation is important for both legal compliance and the final settlement of the estate.

Asset Distribution

After all debts and taxes have been paid, distributing the remaining assets according to the will is the final step. 

Here’s how to distribute assets properly:

  1. Review the Will for Specific Instructions: Carefully read the will to understand the deceased’s wishes regarding asset distribution. Note any specific bequests to individuals or organizations.
  2. Valuate the Estate: Ensure all assets have been properly valued, especially if the assets require appraisal for an equitable distribution.
  3. Obtain Probate Court Approval: Before distributing assets, you may need to file a final account with the probate court and obtain approval for distribution based on the estate’s closing statement.
  4. Distribute Assets: Proceed to distribute the assets. This might include transferring titles of vehicles, transferring deeds of real estate, and distributing personal and household items.
  5. Provide Receipts: Have beneficiaries sign receipts for the assets they receive. This helps ensure there is a record of what each beneficiary received, providing protection against future disputes.
  6. Close the Estate Account: Once all distributions are made and all financial matters settled, close the estate bank account.

Ethical and Fiduciary Responsibilities

Executors have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. 

This section highlights the ethical responsibilities:

  • Acting Impartially Among Beneficiaries: Fairness must be maintained, without favoring one beneficiary over another.
  • Keeping Beneficiaries Informed: Executors must keep all beneficiaries updated about the progress of the estate, including financial decisions and potential delays.
  • Avoiding Conflicts of Interest: An executor must not benefit personally from their position beyond what is explicitly allowed by the will or by law.

Handling Disputes and Claims

Disputes often arise during the probate process, whether between beneficiaries or from external entities such as creditors. 

The executor’s duty is to handle these claims judiciously, seeking legal advice when necessary and representing the estate in any legal confrontations.

Maintaining Records and Documentation

Keeping detailed records is not just a good practice – it’s a requirement. 

Executors must document all actions taken on behalf of the estate, from financial transactions to correspondence with beneficiaries and creditors. 

These records protect the executor legally and ensure transparency in the administration of the estate.

Get Help From A Probate Attorney Today

Handling a will in Georgia involves:

  • careful attention to legal details 
  • a commitment to respecting the wishes of the deceased 

This can be complex and often overwhelming, especially if you’re doing it on your own. 

Our Georgia probate lawyers specialize in:

  • making this process smoother 
  • ensuring that everything is fair for everyone involved

If you are about to take on the role of an executor, or if you just want to understand more about how probate works, we’re here to assist you. 

Our team is well-versed in estate management and can help you manage every step with accuracy and care.

To talk to one of our probate lawyers and get the support you need, simply fill out the form below. 

We’re ready to help you handle these important tasks with confidence and peace of mind.

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