What are an executor's fiduciary duties?

You are already probably on the right track if you are asking about your obligations as an executor of a New York estate. However, the question is not as simple as it might seem to you at first. Your responsibilities are subject to change based on the type of estate you are named to administer. 

The two major distinctions revolve around the way your estate is documented. If the decedent of your estate passed without a will— or was intestate, in other words— then you would face slightly different obligations than if he or she left a will behind. There are also different terms for these two fiduciary positions:

  • An administrator works with an intestate individual's estate through an administration proceeding
  • An executor administers a will through the probate process

If a will exists, you might also have to prove its validity before you are able to administer the estate.

With that in mind, there are three overarching responsibilities you would have as an executor or administrator. According to the New York State Unified Court System, those duties are to administer the estate without bias, while observing relevant deadlines and as efficiently as possible. Breaches of these guidelines with respect to any of the payments, tax filings, inventories, court filings or other actions might constitute a failure of fiduciary duty and a personal liability for you. 

The estate in which you are involved is likely to have several unique or unusual circumstances. These responsibilities are stated in the most general terms possible, and they represent only a small fraction of the possible issues you might face as an executor or administrator. As such, this article is not meant as legal advice: Please look at it as educational material.

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