The Executor of an estate is the person named in the Last Will and Testament of the deceased entrusted to carry out the wishes of the deceased as specified in their will.
The Executor of an estate is charged with the duty to faithfully administer the estate according to law and to act in the best interest of the estate. In fulfilling this duty there are certain things an Executor can and cannot do and failing to carry out these duties may result in being held liable to the estate and beneficiaries alike.
Here are a few key duties of an Executor:
- Identify, Collect and Preserve the Assets of the Deceased
The first and foremost duty of the Executor is to identify and collect all the assets of the deceased. This includes the deceased’s personal effects, bank statements and titles to assets, such as land, shares among other things. A well-written will should clearly set out all the assets of the deceased. However, where the assets are not mentioned in the will, the Executor will need to conduct his/her own investigations to identify and locate the assets.
In addition to identifying and collecting the assets, an Executor as part of his/her duties is expected to preserve and upkeep the estate’s assets. The Executor should use his/her’s best efforts to prevent the assets of the estate from falling into disrepair and to secure them from damage and theft. An executor should take reasonable steps to avoid loss to the estate, but this duty does not extend to ensuring that the assets are meeting their maximum profitability or appreciation.
It is important to note also that assets jointly owned by the deceased and another person may be excluded from the deceased’s estate as the principle of survivorship may take effect. The principle of survivorship dictates that each owner is wholly entitled to the whole of the asset and upon the death of one owner, the entitlement of that joint owner is eliminated. This right takes precedence over any gift made by a joint owner and therefore, such an asset does not form part of the estate.
- Payment of Estate Taxes & Debts
An Executor is responsible for ensuring that all taxes and debts relating to the estate are settled. Transfer tax on death is payable on all real property and shares owned by the deceased at the time of his/her death. Transfer tax is calculated at 1.5% of the value of the deceased’s share or interest in the asset If the value of the deceased interest is $10,000,000.00 JMD or less and this value is accepted by the Stamp Commissioner, then the value falls below the threshold on which Transfer tax is payable.
Additionally, the Executor is responsible for identifying any outstanding debts such as undischarged mortgages or unsatisfied loans and settling same from the estate, if possible, before the distribution of any assets to the beneficiaries.
- Distribution of the Assets
After identifying, collecting and settling the debts of the estate, the Executor will be tasked with distributing the balance of the assets of the estate in accordance with the Last Will and Testament of the deceased. This includes properly identifying the beneficiaries named in the will and their respective gifts.
It is prudent for an executor to engage the services of an attorney who can carefully guide you through the process of administering the estate and protect you from exposure to potential liability.
Kandi Chin is an Associate at Myers, Fletcher & Gordon and is a member of the firm’s Property Department. Kandi may be contacted via email@example.com or www.myersfletcher.com. This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.