An executor is the personal representative of a deceased person. Their job is to manage the decedent’s estate under the supervision of the probate court. Usually the personal representative ends up with the job because they were nominated in the decedent’s will. There are also instances in which there is not a will or someone other than the personal nominated in the will ends up with the job.
Whether the person was nominated in the will or not, that person would not have legal authority to represent the estate until they petition the court asking for appointment, and the court approves their petition. The court will not approve a person who is not qualified. Further, interested parties such as beneficiaries or heirs can object to a petition. The court will approve the person who it deems qualified for the jobs. Tex. Est. Code § 301.101.
Duties and Responsibilities
Once appointed, the personal representative has overall responsibility for completing tasks necessary to settle the decedent’s estate and distribute assets. The administration process generally takes 6-12 months. The length of time depends on the size and complexity of the estate and whether there are disputes during the process such as.
- Take control of assets. The personal representative is responsible for identifying estate assets, including real estate, personal property, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and vehicles that the decedent owned at the time of their death. The personal representative must also secure, protect, and manage the property. Note that there is a distinction between property this is included in the decedent’s probate estate and property that is not. The personal representative is only responsible for managing probate property. Other property passes to the new owners by law upon the decedent’s death regardless of what the will says, if any, and is not subject to the court-supervised probate process.
- Inventory and appraise the assets. Within 90 days of appointment, the personal representative is required to prepare an inventory of estate assets, including their appraised value. The inventory must include all estate real property located in Texas and all estate personal property regardless of where it is located. It must also indicate which property, if any, is community property. The inventory must be filed with the court. Tex. Est. Code § 309.051.
- Pay estate debts. The next major task of the personal representative is to pay estate debts. Within a month after appointment, the personal representative must notify creditors through publication. For known creditors, the personal representative must mail a notice. Tex. Est. Code § 308.051. The personal representative must pay all valid claims that are timely filed to the extent that there are assets in the estate to do so. The personal representative is not required to pay estate debts out of their personal assets. The personal representative is also responsible for filing any outstanding tax returns for the decedent or for the estate and paying any taxes due.
- Distribute estate assets. After debts and expenses are paid, the personal representative can seek authorization from the probate court to distribute assets. Asset distribution is based on either the terms of the decedent’s will or Texas’s law of intestate succession if there is no will. Tex. Est. Code § 201.001 et seq. In the unusual case that the decedent did not have any known close relatives and a “long lost cousin” appears to claim their inheritance, the court my require a heirship hearing to prove relatedness and entitlement to inherit.
Fees for the Executor
Personal representatives are not required to work for free. Under Texas law, personal representatives are entitled to receive a fee of 5% of the amount they receive into the estate and pay out in cash, not to exceed 5% of the gross fair market value of the estate. Tex. Est. Code § 352.002.