When a person drafts a will, they'll be asked to appoint an executor of their estate to handle their final affairs. This individual, who's also known as a personal representative, is generally made aware of their role beforehand by the person writing the will, or testator, dies. Their responsibilities only kick in once they're notified of that person's passing.
After the testator passes away, the executor must locate the decedent's most recent will and file it with the local probate court. Soon after doing this, they'll be asked to appear in front of a probate court judge where they'll be informed of their responsibilities and asked whether they can handle them.
If that individual is unable to do so, then Utah Code 75-3-203 allows several other individuals to be appointed to the personal representative role, so long as they're over the age of 21.
People that can be appointed to this role include the testator's spouse, their heir or a person who's supposed to be receiving a gift under the will. One of the testator's creditors may also be appointed to this role provided 45 days have elapsed since their passing.
Once an executor is appointed to their role, one of their first responsibilities is to inventory the estate and safeguard it. The executor is then supposed to make contact with all creditors and heirs to notify them of the testator's death.
The executor must pay off all the testator's outstanding debts including funeral expenses. They must also file their final tax return and pay any amounts that are owed. If the balance due exceeds the liquid cash readily available to the executor necessary to pay, then it's their responsibility to sell all necessary property to cover these expenses.
Only once all debts and taxes are paid can the executor finally distribute any money or property left in the estate to any existing heirs.
Handling the responsibilities that come with administering a loved one's estate can be particularly difficult, especially since it has to happen while you're still grieving their loss. Uncovering what debts they may have had, locating and contacting their heirs and dividing up their property in accordance with stated wishes can be a lot to handle.
A St. George estate planning attorney can guide you through your role as executor to ensure you that you're doing everything you're required by law to do.