News & Insights

An Executor’s Guide to Settling an Estate

Executors are responsible for handling the administration of an estate until it is “settled” or closed. Once the assets have been marshaled, bills have been paid, specific bequests distributed, and any outstanding issues resolved, the fiduciary (the executor or administrator) must prepare an “accounting.” An accounting must be done before the estate’s remaining assets (called the “residuary”) can be distributed to beneficiaries and before the executor will be released from all claims regarding the administration of the estate.

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When Can Executors Honor a Power of Attorney?

One of the responsibilities of an estate executor or administrator is dealing with beneficiaries of an estate. What appears to be a straightforward task can be complicated when the executor is contacted by someone who claims to hold a power of attorney (POA) for a beneficiary of the estate (also known as an “attorney-in-fact”). An attorney-in-fact is typically involved when a beneficiary is elderly or disabled and cannot act on his/her own behalf. There are special rules in place for New York executors when they deal with an attorney-in-fact. They cannot necessarily recognize the POA unless certain requirements are met.

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Obstacles in Identifying the Assets in an Estate

The executor or administrator of an estate has a duty to “marshal”—or collect—all of the decedent’s assets so the assets can be distributed to the appropriate heirs. Usually, this is a simple process. However, sometimes executors and administrators face obstacles in identifying the assets in an estate, where the assets are located and how to obtain possession of the assets. It is important to know the tools available to overcome obstacles in collecting and preserving the decedent’s assets in order to protect the beneficiaries of the estate and avoid liability.

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