The executor will be responsible for initiating the probate proceeding of your will and fulfill the wishes that you expressed in it. Your executor will have a fiduciary duty to your estate, which means they will be held liable if they misuse your assets for their own benefit. The executor’s main duties include:
- Keeping your assets safe
- Contacting the beneficiaries of your will and ensuring the property distribution
- Filing the will in the appropriate probate court
- Canceling your credit cards and social security
- Paying your debts, insurance and final estate and income taxes
- Setting up a bank account for your estate
The executor does not need to be a lawyer to carry out these duties. Some people appoint a family member as their executor to avoid paying a commission to a third party. You can also assign two people as executors if you don’t want a family member to carry the burden alone.
If the executor is not a member of your family, they must get compensation for their services from your estate. The commission rate in New York is:
- 5% on the first $100,000 in the estate
- 4% on the next $200,000
- 3% on the next $700,000
- 2-1/% on the next $4,000,000
- 2% on any amount above $5,000,000
If you choose a bank or a trust company as your executor, they may charge more.
When executors fail
The probate court can remove the executor from his duties if they take inappropriate actions on behalf of your estate. Afterward, your loved ones could file a lawsuit with the civil court to get the money they stole back. It is your family’s right to hold him liable for breaching their fiduciary duty.