Executor Estate Duties Quiz

As an estate executor you have fiduciary duties you may not even know. I created a quiz to explain what estate executor duties are. It will help you understand your estate responsibilities. It is not an exhaustive list.

Give yourself one point for each duty you can identify or at least heard of before.

Executor’s have these duties to:

1. Account. You need to keep written records of assets, liabilities, receipts and disbursements. Beneficiaries can call upon you to produce your accounts and, in some cases, undergo a court audit.

2. Administer the estate according to the will or trust document. This means you must comply with local laws and customs that can alter how you perform your duties. Simply reading a will does not suffice. You must understand your duties. Seek guidance from a qualified estate lawyer.

3. Skill. Although you have no prior experience, you can’t lackadaisically perform tasks. You must meet the standards the law requires of a fiduciary. Being an executor is not a responsibility you can ignore or postpone.

4. Notice. You must give notice to beneficiaries when you apply to probate the will. Keep them informed of any information that affects their interest in the trust or the estate.

5. Personal performance. You may hire agents to help you, such as lawyers, tax advisers, real estate agents and insurance brokers. You cannot delegate responsibility to the people you hire. You are still responsible for everything and everyone you hire. This is often referred to as the duty not to delegate. Give yourself a point if you are familiar with either duty.

6. Loyalty. This means that you must put the interests of the beneficiaries ahead of your own personal interests.

7. Conflicts of interest. Your duty is to avoid such problems. These can occur when you use estate property for personal benefit and not estate purposes.

8. Co-mingling. You must keep your personal money and estate funds separate.

9. Impartiality. You cannot prefer one set of beneficiaries over another. You have a duty not to allow your relatives to use trust property.

10. Invest. You need to make sure that the estate funds are earning interest. This includes prudently investing estate funds.

11. Creditors. You must pay these in a timely manner. You need to locate and advertise for them if necessary. You want to pay them once you have control of estate funds.

12. Defend. You have to defend the estate – and if necessary even the will – in any existing lawsuits.

13. Confidentiality. You must keep estate and beneficiary information confidential.

14. Distribute. This means paying out the estate to beneficiaries on a timely basis. You should not delay distribution beyond any deadlines specified by the will or local law/customs.

15. Taxes. I have highlighted this as a separate duty. You must pay provincial probate taxes and federal income taxes. Failure to pay taxes can make you personally responsible to pay them out of your pocket.

As you file your own tax returns this season, remember the tax returns for any estate you may be handling.

How To Score The Executor Estate Duties Quiz

Usually, knowing 75% of the material is a good score. However, if you are an executor, all of these duties apply to every estate. You may be lucky. The estate you manage may not have such issues.