THE ROLE OF THE EXECUTOR… The Executor is the CEO of an estate. The individual or institution filling that role is, in essence, the owner of your estate when you pass on, and has a “fiduciary duty” to do what is in the best interests of your beneficiaries, the people you leave your stuff to.
Executors and trustees (if you have a living trust instead of a Will) need to be careful and diligent about their work, and consider hiring outside assistance (attorney, CPA, etc.) as needed to ensure accountings are filed correctly, and inheritance tax and estate tax returns are prepared properly.
Transparency is key when you are an Executor. For instance, sharing a full accounting and a copy of the Will with the beneficiaries goes a long way.
Also, if an estate has creditors, you must be diligent in ensuring they receive proper notice. If an Executor fails to give proper notice to creditors and the Executor distributes the estate, there is a possibility that the creditor could later appear, make a demand, and hold the Executor personally liable.
Being Executor is not impossible to handle without a lot of outside help, especially for simple estates. But where there are complexities, beneficiaries with some conflict, creditors, etc., it makes good sense for your estate for the Executor to consider outside assistance. Remember, the Executor has a legal obligation and a fiduciary obligation.
FEDERAL TRANSFER TAX UPDATE… The so-called “super-committee” had apparently floated the ideas of changing the gift tax and federal estate tax before the year is out. Fun rumor, but not going to happen, as we have heard over the weekend that Congress is… surprise, surprise… deadlocked!
The gift tax exclusion stays basically the same in 2012. You can make $13,000 annual gifts to as many people as you want, no tax due and no filing needed. Over $13k, you have a $5.12 million lifetime gifting exemption. Anything above $13k, you need to file a Gift Tax Return (IRS Form 709). Any gift over $5.12 Million in 2012 is taxable at a 35% rate. This will potentially change again in 2013. Now is the time to make large gifts.
The federal estate tax remains at a $5.12 Million exemption in 2012, affecting very few people. Anything above $5.12 Million, or $10.24 Million for a married couple, is taxed at 35%. Again, 2013 could see major changes in this scheme.
The Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax rates will remain the same in 2012.
Of course, we’ll keep you updated on any changes.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Best wishes to you and your family.