The Executor and the Administrator perform essentially similar functions. These duties (many of which are performed with the assistance and guidance from the estate's attorney) include these:
A. Locating and Collecting Assets:
Identifying and locating all of the decedent's assets. These may include bank accounts, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, real estate, pensions, IRA accounts, profit sharing accounts, insurance policies, motor vehicles, jewelry, art and other valuable tangible personal property;
Arranging for estate assets to be retitled into the name of the estate, liquidated into cash or transferred directly to one or more beneficiaries. Any assets maintained by the Executor in the name of the estate need to be properly invested;
Securing the decedent's residence and other real property holdings. This might include, for example, continuing utilities, making repairs and keeping insurance in force.
B. Managing The Assets During The Estate Settlement Process:
Determining and paying the decedent's debts. These may include mortgages, credit cards, medical bills, leases, utility bills, real estate taxes and funeral expenses;
Arranging for insurance policies to be kept in force on the decedent's automobiles, real estate, and other property. (Note: the premiums on those policies may be adjusted once the insurance company is notified of the decedent's death);
Filing life, health and property insurance claims, as applicable;
Applying for social security death benefits and veteran's death benefits, as applicable;
Having the decedent's real estate and personal property professionally appraised.
Paying administration expenses such as court filing fees, accounting fees, legal fees, and appraisal fees.
C. Filing Tax Returns and Paying Taxes:
Paying all taxes (Federal and state individual income, estate and fiduciary income taxes) owed by the decedent (or the estate), and arranging for the preparation and filing of all relevant tax returns;
Determining whether the decedent made taxable gifts prior to death and, if so, arranging for the preparation and filing of gift tax returns.
D. Closure Of The Estate Process:
Preparing interim and final reports ("accountings") detailing the estate's activities for the estate's beneficiaries/heirs or, if necessary, a court order approving the accounting;
Distributing the estate's assets or net proceeds (as applicable), to the individuals entitled to them (be it according to the Will or under the laws of intestacy) subject to the consent of the heirs, or court order, if necessary.
In some circumstances, it is appropriate for the Executor or Administrator to initiate litigation on behalf of the estate. Here are some common examples:
If the decedent died because of another individual's negligence (e.g. car accident, medical malpractice, etc.);
If an individual who had control over the decedent's assets (pursuant to a Power of Attorney or as a joint account holder) misappropriated or wrongfully transferred the decedent's assets;
If the decedent's assets are held by another individual who refuses to turn them over to the Executor or Administrator;
If real property partially owned by the decedent must be "partitioned" from the ownership of the other co-owners so that it can be sold or distributed;
If a debt is owed to the decedent the debt must be collected.