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Does the Estate Need a Temporary Executor?

You may need to apply for temporary executorship if the estate plan documents show that the decedent’s estate has assets subject to probate that need immediate action. Temporary executorship can be achieved only if the will permits. Or you may need to apply for temporary administrator with will annexed, which can be done at the discretion of the court.

Your appointment as executor may take a few weeks — or sometimes more — to accomplish. Your appointment as temporary executor or temporary administrator can be accomplished much more quickly.

You typically accomplish temporary administration through a written motion to the court where you set out the reasons it’s being sought and the powers you’re requesting. Some courts may have a form of petition to present. In either case, you need to present your request for temporary administration in person to the court, along with the following:

  • A certified copy of the death certificate

  • The original will if it hasn’t already been filed

  • Any other documents required by the local court

If your request is granted, your powers will be limited to those sought in the motion and approved by the court, except as set out by state law. Some instances in which you may want to apply for temporary administration include the following:

  • To preserve the value of stocks and bonds held by your decedent. Because of the nature of the stock market, you may want to sell these assets quickly to avoid a decrease in value.

    Your duty as executor is to preserve the estate assets for the beneficiaries, not to grow the estate. So you may want to sell all the volatile securities and convert the holdings into more stable assets to preserve the value of the estate for distribution to the beneficiaries.

    Remember, any income tax consequences for the sale of these assets are small because the tax basis has stepped up to the value on the decedent’s date of death. Keep in mind that you don’t get credit for any gains on assets during estate administration, but you can be held accountable for any losses. Check your local law on this issue with an attorney experienced in local probate.

  • To continue your decedent’s business.

  • To manage real property held by your decedent.

  • To pay expenses of last illness, funeral expenses, and taxes.

  • To gain access to the decedent’s safe deposit box to look for the decedent’s will, if your state doesn’t provide an alternative means of entering the box.

  • To bury the decedent.

You may need to file an executor’s bond, and even the temporary administrator must file an inventory and an account. The temporary appointment ends when the executor under the will — or administrator if there is no will — is appointed.

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