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Executor & Trustee Guidelines

If you have been named executor of a will or trustee of a trust, these guidelines can help you understand what's expected of you in the process.

The executor (sometimes referred to as executrix for females) is responsible for managing the affairs of and settling the estate, including initiating court procedures and filing the deceased's final tax returns.

The trustee acts as the legal owner of trust assets, and is responsible for handling any of the assets held in trust, tax filings for the trust, and distributing the assets according to the terms of the trust.

Both roles involve duties that are legally required. If you don't feel you can carry them out effectively, you may be able to hire a professional to help carry out the duties or step down and allow someone else to assume the tasks.

Each state has different rules and each situation is unique, so you should always consult with an attorney or tax advisor.

If you have been named executor of a will, these guidelines may help you understand what’s expected of you. You can also use them to determine if you would rather not serve as executor.

If you determine you would rather not act as the executor, the will may name an alternative or an attorney can help you petition the courts to have another executor appointed if necessary.

Generally, the executor of an estate may be expected to perform certain types of duties, including:

  • Represent the estate for legal purposes: Hire an estate attorney, petition the court, and attend court proceedings.
  • Manage the affairs and expenses of the estate, including paying debts and expenses and collecting receivables, planning for cash and liquidity needs, having assets appraised or revalued if necessary, and, in some states, filing a probate inventory.
  • Contact government institutions as needed, to obtain information such as an Employer Identification Number for the estate from the IRS.
  • Issue notifications, such as public notice of probate in newspapers and statutory notice to beneficiaries to inform them of their interest in the estate.
  • Attend to tax-related tasks, such as filing tax returns and a closing letter with the state’s tax bureau.
  • Distribute assets to the beneficiaries.

Next step

Call our inheritance specialist with questions or to find out about transferring a Fidelity account at 800-544-0003.

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probate inventory

listing of all assets and liabilities related to the deceased's estate

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statutory notice

notification that is legally required to be made, usually within a specified period of time

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closing letter

sent by the IRS to the executor to indicate that the estate’s tax return is satisfactory; depending on state law, the executor may have to file a closing letter with the state tax bureau

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successor trustee

individual named in the terms of a trust to assume the role of trustee should the originally appointed trustee be unable or unwilling to assume or continue in the role; for living trusts, the individual named in the trust to succeed as trustee upon the owner's death

Questions?

Speak with an inheritance specialist.

*Trust services are offered through Fidelity Personal Trust Company, FSB (FPT), a federal savings bank, and Fidelity Management Trust Company (FMTC).

The tax information and estate planning information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. Fidelity cannot guarantee that such information is accurate, complete, or timely. Laws of a particular state or laws which may be applicable to a particular situation may have an impact on the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of such information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. Changes in such laws and regulations may have a material impact on pre- and/or after-tax investment results. Fidelity makes no warranties with regard to such information or results obtained by its use. Fidelity disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or any tax position taken in reliance on, such information. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

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