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What are the fiduciary duties of an estate executor?

The role of an estate executor is a position of considerable responsibility and trust. When a person is appointed executor of an estate, they must manage and settle it.

This role is governed by a set of fiduciary duties that are legally binding and designed to ensure the executor acts in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. The fiduciary duties of an estate executor encompass various aspects, from managing assets to dealing with beneficiaries.

Careful management of assets

The executor must manage the estate’s assets with the same care and diligence that a reasonable person would use in managing their assets. This duty extends to:

  • Making prudent investments with the estate’s assets
  • Maintaining accurate records
  • Keeping the estate’s funds separate from personal funds

The executor must also ensure that all estate taxes and debts are paid before distributing assets to beneficiaries.

Decision-making based on the estate’s needs

The duty of loyalty requires the executor to act solely in the interest of the estate and its beneficiaries. When the executor might have a personal interest in an aspect of the estate, transparency and adherence to legal procedures are essential to avoid allegations of self-dealing or favoritism.

Following the estate plan and applicable laws

An executor is legally bound to carry out the wishes of the deceased as expressed in their will, as long as those wishes are lawful. This includes distributing assets according to the will’s instructions and adhering to all relevant laws and regulations governing estate administration in California.

Because estate administration is complex, it’s best to have someone on your side who’s familiar with applicable laws.