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Palm Springs Law Blog

Friday, November 25, 2022

Challenges of Serving as an Executor to an Estate

When you are named as an executor of someone’s estate, it indicates an enormous amount of trust and respect. However, serving as an executor presents many potential challenges and difficulties.

Those appointed to this position are given certain ethical and legal rights and obligations. In the state of California, executors are held to a specific fiduciary standard.

If you have been named the executor of a late loved one’s estate, it is a good idea to speak with a skilled estate planning attorney. A legal professional will help you navigate California’s complex probate administration process.

They will also provide reliable guidance for any issues or challenges that arise. When someone passes away without a comprehensive estate plan, their executor may face a wide range of difficulties.

Court Approval to the Position of Executor

When a loved one has nominated you as the executor of their estate, it is an honor. But in the state of California, you must secure approval from the courts before you can begin performing the functions of the executor.

Courts are not required to appoint the executor named in the decedent’s will. In some cases, the court will vet the appointee to determine whether they can manage the tasks required of an executor.

Securing Court Approval for Payments

Executors are tasked with many important functions following the death of the estate holder. Some of the most common functions of the executor include:

  • Developing an inventory of assets and property
  • Paying the decedent’s debt
  • Ensuring that relevant taxes are paid
  • Communicating with taxing authorities and private creditors
  • Making payments for attorneys and other services

However, the executor cannot make payments on behalf of the estate without court approval. Also, there are special procedures that executors must follow when selling assets.

A skilled estate planning lawyer can help you petition the court for full powers as the estate representative. After the court grants this request, you will not need to obtain approval before each new action affecting the estate.

Understand Required California Deadlines

Executors must identify and manage all the applicable deadlines related to the estate they are overseeing. Some of the most common deadlines are:

  • Inventorying estate assets
  • Serving notice to creditors
  • Serving notice to beneficiaries
  • Overseeing property and assets

In California, executors must inventory and appraise estate assets within four months of their appointment. Failing to complete this important task in time could result in administrative penalties.

Unjustified lengthy delays in the process could also qualify as a breach of fiduciary duty. In cases like this, the executor could be held personally liable for the damage. Speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney will ensure that you meet all the relevant legal deadlines as an executor.

Collecting Unpaid Assets

One important function of an executor is to identify the assets that belong to the decedent’s estate. Some of these assets may still be unpaid.

It is the job of an executor to ascertain and secure unpaid assets. Common examples include the following types of funds that are owed to the decedent:

  • Wages, income, and salary
  • Disability benefits
  • Contractual payments
  • Healthcare benefits
  • Retirement payments and benefits

In some cases, a third party may attempt to prevent these payments to the estate. If this happens, the executor can petition the court to compel payment. In extreme instances, the executor may need to file a lawsuit on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

Speak with an Estate Planning Attorney

To consult with a trustworthy estate planning lawyer in Palm Springs, CA, contact Heritage Legal, PC. Our firm will help you protect important assets and prepare for the future.


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