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The duties of estate executors in California

Those named as estate executors in California bear the responsibility of handling decedents’ assets and settling their estates.

The loss of a loved one, expected or unexpected, may be a sad and trying experience for those left behind. This difficult time may be made all the more challenging for those named as estate executors in California, who must take on the responsibility of settling the decedents’ final affairs.

Who can be named an estate executor?

The state of California enforces several requirements for people to serve as estate executors. To qualify to act as a personal representative for a decedent, those named as executors must be at least 18-years-old. If they are under the legal age of majority, the court may see fit to name another person to serve as estate executor until such time as the testator’s choice turns 18-years-old. People named as personal representatives in testators’ wills must also be of sound mind, meaning a court cannot have judged them incapacitated.

Inventorying and managing the estate

One of the primary responsibilities of people named as estate executors is to inventory and manage the estate’s assets. To this end, they may make reasonable attempts to locate all property that belongs to the decedent. It is also the responsibility of estate executors to obtain appraisals for the estate’s assets and to submit an itemized list of the estate’s assets and their valuations to the court.

Identifying the heirs and beneficiaries

Upon their passing, people’s assets may be transferred to heirs or beneficiaries. As estate executors, people must identify the estate’s beneficiaries and heirs based on the terms of the will, or if the decedents died intestate, in accordance with state law.

Transferring the decedent’s property

After determining the estates’ holdings and to whom the assets should pass on, estate executors must determine how the property should be transferred. The estates of decedents whose property is worth over $166,250 must go through formal probate. In such cases, estate executors must file a petition for probate with the court, provide the appropriate notices, distribute the appropriate assets to the specified heirs or beneficiaries, file a final income tax return for the estate and submit a final report to the court showing the probate process is complete.

Estates valued at less than $166,250 or those comprised of assets that already have designated beneficiaries may be eligible for a simplified probate process. For example, the assets from retirement accounts, pensions, life insurance policies, bank accounts or living trusts may be passed directly on to the named beneficiaries without going through formal probate. In cases when the estate is worth less than $166,250, those entitled to legally inherit the personal property from the estate may have the estate’s assets transferred to them through a less formal process. They may accomplish this by writing an affidavit and submitting it to the appropriate bank or institution.

Working with an attorney

Those named as executors of the estates of recently deceased loved ones bear a substantial responsibility. It may help for people who have taken on the obligations of an estate executor to consult with a legal representative to understand what is expected of them and the time limits for performing their duties.

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