When someone passes away in Texas, the executor (sometimes called an administrator) has four essential functions. They are as follows:
The first step is presenting the will to the probate court to ensure that all property is transferred as specified. After the judge issues an order authorizing the named executor to act, that executor has the authority to transfer assets, access financial accounts, communicate with third parties, and carry out their other responsibilities.
The executor must take an inventory of estate assets in order to accurately transfer property and pay any financial obligations. They make a list of personal property, assets with titles (such as vehicles and real estate), and financial holdings, such as investments and bank accounts. In addition:
The executor will notify all creditors about the person’s death and validate any claims before paying them to ensure that they are legitimate debts. Other duties include:
Any assets that remain after all financial obligations are satisfied are then distributed.
At this stage, the executor’s primary responsibility is ensuring that all named beneficiaries receive the property left to them in the will. This means that they must:
If an asset is not named in the will, the executor will distribute it according to Texas law. Once all distributions are complete, they return to the probate court and ask it to close the estate and discharge them as the executor.
Estate executors have certain fiduciary responsibilities to the heirs and beneficiaries. They are:
These responsibilities remain the name regardless of whether the probate administration is dependent or independent.
In Texas, the default is a dependent administration, which means that the executor relies on the authority and supervision of the court to take actions in the probate process, such as sell assets and pay debts. In addition, they must file accountings with the court every year that the probate case continues. This higher level of scrutiny can involve a lot of time and expense, but it helps estate heirs and beneficiaries feel confident that the administrator has properly completed their duties.
Heirs or beneficiaries of an estate can opt to have the court waive the dependent administration requirement and appoint an independent administration, which is less expensive and time-consuming. In this situation, the estate executor distributes assets, pays bills, and carries out their duties without court oversight.
Administration of an estate can be difficult, especially if there are assets located outside Texas or the deceased had significant business holdings. If you are named as the executor of a complicated estate, an experienced Texas probate attorney can answer challenging questions and help you make the right decisions.
At Romano & Sumner, we are committed to helping Texas estate executors administer estates effectively and efficiently. This includes advice and support with accountings, asset distribution, and debt payments. For more information on how we can support you as executor of a loved one’s estate, contact Romano & Sumner today.
Romano & Sumner, PLLC