Executor in a Will
Doing a good job as an executor requires someone with persistence and who pays attention to detail. However, most people need professional assistance as an executor in a will since each estate confronts many issues such as the collection and valuation of assets, the payment of debts, claims and taxes and the distribution of estate funds to beneficiaries. As a New York City wills lawyer, I have represented many clients who are an executor in a will and assisted them with probating the will and administering and settling the estate.
An Executor is also known as a fiduciary and he has duties, responsibilities and powers that must be exercised properly. The New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law ("EPTL") and the Surrogate's Court Procedure Act ("SCPA") as well as decisions of the Courts, provide a wide array of conduct that an Executor, as a Fiduciary, must follow. For example, an Executor should pay all of the debts, taxes and obligations that a decedent and the decedent's estate may be obligated to satisfy. Executors also have a general duty to treat all of the estate beneficiaries fairly and cannot engage in conduct which improperly favors one over another. Also, a fiduciary cannot engage in self-dealing which means that he cannot handle estate affairs in a manner that would wrongfully benefit himself over the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. An attorney can help an executor make sure that they uphold this duty.
A New York lawyer can guide an appointed executor to recognize and to perform his obligations as required by the Surrogate's Court and related laws. When an Executor acts improperly he may breach his fiduciary duty and can be held accountable for his conduct. The Court has the power to remove an Executor and revoke his powers and also may require him to pay damages for wrongful acts. These damages are referred to as a surcharge. A breach of fiduciary duty may occur either because the fiduciary acts in a certain manner or is negligent in performing his duties. EPTL 11-1.1 lists many of the powers that are given to Fiduciaries such as the power to invest estate or trust property and to pay proper expenses. Estate beneficiaries have a right to review the actions of all fiduciaries since it is required that beneficiaries be provided with an account of all of the estate or trust transactions.
As can be seen, acting as a fiduciary such as an Executor is a large responsibility. As noted, all fiduciaries are held accountable for their performance and also must provide the estate beneficiaries with a written accounting of the acts and transactions that they engage in, These accountings can be the subject of a separate Accounting Proceeding in the Surrogate's Court.
As a wills attorney in New York City, I have over 25 years of experience working personally with clients who are the executor in a will. I graduated in the top 10% of my class at The New England School of Law in Boston and served on the “Law Review.” I was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1979 and admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1982. I was admitted to the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit and the United States District Court for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. I started my own law practice in New York City in 1985.
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