What are the responsibilities of an executor or administrator?

If a person has been designated executor under a will, he or she must first file a Petition for Probate with the court in order to be appointed as executor, and then have Letters Testamentary issued. The executor must be knowledgeable of the value of the assets in the estate, and is required to have the court-appointed appraiser provide an appraisal of all assets. A judicial council form must be used for this purpose, and the executor has 120 days within which to file the completed form with the court.

The executor also has a responsibility to serve notice of probate on all known creditors, and provide them with a copy of the creditor claim form so that they can present their claim to the court. And under California law, all actions performed by the executor require the approval of the court, particularly the sale of real estate unless the executor requests full power under the Independent Administration of Estates Act.

Provided that the executor can complete all duties concerning the estate within 12 months, the executor can simultaneously file the final report and accounting, and secure an order to distribute the assets and pay the executor’s fees. If the estate is kept open for longer than 12 months, then the executor must file a status report with the court. Upon court approval of the final report and accounting, the executor must then distribute the assets to the beneficiaries, who are required to sign receipts for them. These receipts must be filed with the court before the executor can file an ex-parte application for discharge.

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