Should I Serve As Executor of a California Probate Estate?
Has your loved one died in California with a will? Are considering serving as the executor of the probate estate? Are you concerned about all you will have to do? Let’s discuss what the executor does.
The Requirements to be Appointed as Executor of a California Probate Estate
In California, it is mandatory for an executor to post bond before they are appointed. The exceptions to this rule are:
- If all the beneficiaries waive bond in writing before the hearing on your petition for probate OR
- The will itself waives bond for the nominated executor.
A bond is simply an insurance policy. It insures the estate against any loss caused by the executor’s breach of fiduciary duty. What that means is if the executor causes a loss to the estate, then the heirs need to be insured against that loss. That’s what the bond does.
Bond companies will require you to fill out an application and check your credit. You don’t need perfect credit to get a bond but if you have had a major financial problem, like bankruptcy, then you won’t qualify.
If you can post a bond or get a bond waiver then let’s discuss the tasks you will personally perform as executor:
Common Tasks the Executor Must Perform
1. Gather and Take Control of Estate Assets
It’s not something you can delegate to anybody else. You will have to go to the bank, or the brokerage, or the mutual fund company. In other words, you are responsible for gathering the probate estate’s assets. When dealing with a financial institution, you will have to fill out their forms, present them with certified copies of your letters, and get those assets re-titled in your name as executor of the estate.
2. Deal with Creditors
There may be medical bills, unpaid credit cards, or any other type of debt. You will have to decide whether these are valid debts and whether these debts should be paid in whole or in part.
3. Decide what needs to be sold during probate
If there’s real estate in the estate, there is a good chance it will need to be sold while the probate estate is open. Usually, selling real estate is necessary in order to pay any debts of the decedent and the costs of probate. It is also often necessary in order to divide the estate between the beneficiaries. You are going to be responsible for finding a real estate agent, working with that real estate agent, making sure the property gets listed, gets marketed, and ultimately gets sold.
4. File an income tax return
If the estate produces even a small amount of income or gains from sales, then there is a reasonable chance you will have to file at least one fiduciary income tax return as the executor. You can hire an accountant to do this for you. Just understand your accountant will rely on you to provide the documents needed to prepare the income tax return and may need an explanation about why certain things were done.