Fairfax, VA Probate Blog

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Executor Powers After Appointment

The Executor is conferred many powers after becoming appointed to the estate. However, spelling out those executor powers exactly can be complicated. 

Specifically, the Virginia Probate Code provides that the Executor shall administer, well and truly, the whole personal estate of the decedent. Consequently, the Executor's powers are limited to the personal estate of the decedent unless the Executor obtains greater power from the Court (which the Executor has power to do). In addition, there are other duties imposed by State and Federal law with regard to the Executor (administrative tasks, creditor issues, tax issues, ect). Those duties confer certain powers to an extent. 

Defining the Executor's powers can be more enlightening if the Will incorporates a certain Virginia Statute by reference and gives the Executor said powers included within that statute. If the Will incorporates Virginia Code Section 64.2-105 then those powers included in said statute will become the powers of the executor as provided in the statute. 

In reality, it is more easy to define what powers are not expressly conferred on the Executor than powers that are expressly conferred on the executor. Consequently, executors should consult a probate attorney when taking any action. 

Virginia Code Section 64.2-105 Incorporation by reference of certain powers of fiduciaries into will or trust instrument

A. For purposes of this section:

"Environmental law" means any federal, state, or local law, rule, regulation, or ordinance relating to protection of the environment or human health.

"Estate" includes all interests in the real or personal property of a decedent passing by will or by intestate succession.

"Fiduciary" includes one or more individuals or corporations having trust powers, and includes the fiduciary of the estate of a decedent and the trustee of an inter vivos or testamentary trust. Any substitute, added, or successor fiduciary shall have all of the powers hereby provided for the fiduciary named in the will or trust instrument.

"Hazardous substances" means any substances defined as hazardous or toxic or otherwise regulated by any environmental law.

B. The following powers, in addition to all other powers granted by law, may be incorporated in whole or in part in any will or trust instrument by reference to this section:

1. To keep and retain any or all investments and property, real, personal or mixed, including stock in the fiduciary, if the fiduciary is a corporation, in the same form as they are at the time the investments and property come into the custody of the fiduciary, regardless of the character of the investments and property, whether they are such as then would be authorized by law for investment by fiduciaries, or whether a disproportionately large part of the trust or estate remains invested in one or more types of property, for such time as the fiduciary deems best, and to dispose of such property by sale, exchange, or otherwise as and when such fiduciary deems advisable.

2. At the discretion of the fiduciary, to receive additions to the estate from any source, in cash or in kind, and to hold, administer, and distribute such additions as a part of and under the same terms and conditions as the estate then currently held.

3. To sell, assign, exchange, transfer and convey, or otherwise dispose of, any or all of the investments and property, real, personal or mixed, that are included in, or may at any time become part of the trust or estate upon such terms and conditions as the fiduciary, in his absolute discretion, deems advisable, at either public or private sale, either for cash or deferred payments or other consideration, as the fiduciary determines. For the purpose of selling, assigning, exchanging, transferring, or conveying such investments and property, the fiduciary has the power to make, execute, acknowledge, and deliver any and all instruments of conveyance, deeds of trust, or assignments in such form and with warranties and covenants as the fiduciary deems expedient and proper; and in the event of any sale, conveyance, exchange, or other disposition of any of the trust or estate, the purchaser shall not be obligated in any way to see to the application of the purchase money or other consideration passing in connection therewith.

4. To grant, sell, transfer, exchange, purchase, or acquire options of any kind on property held by such trust or estate or acquired or to be acquired by such trust or estate or held or owned by any other person.

5. To lease any or all of the real estate that is included in or may at any time become a part of the trust or estate upon such terms and conditions as the fiduciary in his sole judgment and discretion deems advisable. Any lease made by the fiduciary may extend beyond the term of the trust or administration of the estate and, for the purpose of leasing such real estate, the fiduciary has the power to make, execute, acknowledge, and deliver any and all instruments, in such form and with such covenants and warranties as the fiduciary deems expedient and proper.

6. To vote any stocks, bonds, or other securities held by the fiduciary at any meeting of stockholders, bondholders, or other security holders, and to delegate the power to so vote to attorneys-in-fact or proxies under power of attorney, restricted or unrestricted.

7. To borrow money for such periods of time and upon such terms and conditions as to rates, maturities, renewals, and security as to the fiduciary seems advisable, including the power to borrow from the fiduciary, if the fiduciary is a bank, for the purpose of paying (i) debts, taxes, or other charges against the trust or estate or any part thereof and (ii) with prior approval of the court for any proper purpose of the trust or estate. The fiduciary has the power to mortgage or pledge such portion of the trust or estate as may be required to secure such loans and, as maker or endorser, to renew existing loans.

8. To make loans or advancements to the executor or other representative of the grantor's estate in case such executor or other representative is in need of cash with which to pay taxes, claims, or other indebtedness of the grantor's estate; but no assets acquired from a qualified retirement benefit plan under § 2039(c) of the Internal Revenue Code shall be used to make such loans or advancements, and such assets shall be segregated and held separately until all claims against the estate for debts of the decedent or claims of administration have been satisfied. Such loans or advancements may be secured or unsecured, and the trustee is not liable in any way for any loss resulting to the trust or estate by reason of the exercise of this authority.

9. To compromise, adjust, arbitrate, sue on or defend, abandon, or otherwise deal with and settle claims in favor of or against the trust or estate as the fiduciary deems best, and his decision is conclusive.

10. To make distributions in cash or in kind or partly in each at valuations to be determined by the fiduciary, whose decision as to values shall be conclusive.

11. To repair, alter, improve, renovate, reconstruct, or demolish any of the buildings on the real estate held by the fiduciary and to construct such buildings and improvements thereon as the fiduciary in his discretion deems advisable.

12. To employ and compensate, out of the principal or income, or both as to the fiduciary seems proper, agents, accountants, brokers, attorneys-in-fact, attorneys-at-law, tax specialists, licensed real estate brokers, licensed salesmen, and other assistants and advisors deemed by the fiduciary to be needful for the proper administration of the trust or estate, and to do so without liability for any neglect, omission, misconduct, or default of any such agent or professional representative provided he was selected and retained with reasonable care.

13. To rely upon any affidavit, certificate, letter, notice, telegram, or other paper or upon any telephone conversation believed by the fiduciary to be genuine and upon any other evidence believed by the fiduciary to be sufficient, and to be protected and held harmless for all payments or distributions required to be made hereunder if made in good faith and without actual notice or knowledge of the changed condition or status of any person receiving payments or other distributions upon a condition.

14. To retain any interest held by the fiduciary in any business, whether as a stockholder or security holder of a corporation, a partner, a sole proprietor, or otherwise, for any length of time, without limitations, solely at the risk of the trust or estate and without liability on the part of the fiduciary for any losses resulting therefrom; including the power to (i) participate in the conduct of such business and take or delegate to others discretionary power to take any action with respect to its management and affairs that an individual could take as the owner of such business, including the voting of stock and the determination of any or all questions of policy; (ii) participate in any incorporation, reorganization, merger, consolidation, recapitalization, or liquidation of the business; (iii) invest additional capital in, subscribe to additional stock or securities of, and loan money or credit with or without security to, such business out of the trust or estate property; (iv) elect or employ as directors, officers, employees, or agents of such business, and compensate, any persons, including the fiduciary or a director, officer, or agent of the fiduciary; (v) accept as correct financial or other statements rendered by the business from time to time as to its conditions and operations except when having actual notice to the contrary; (vi) regard the business as an entity separate from the trust or estate with no duty to account to any court as to its operations; (vii) deal with and act for the business in any capacity, including any banking or trust capacity and the loaning of money out of the fiduciary's own funds, and to be compensated therefor; and (viii) sell or liquidate such interest or any part thereof at any time. If any business shall be unincorporated, contractual and tort liabilities arising out of such business shall be satisfied, first, out of the business, and second, out of the trust or estate; but in no event shall there be a liability of the fiduciary, and if the fiduciary is held liable, the fiduciary is entitled to indemnification from, first, the business, and second, the trust or estate. The fiduciary is entitled to such additional compensation as is commensurate with the time, effort, and responsibility involved in his performance of services with respect to such business. Such compensation for services rendered to the business may be paid by the fiduciary from the business or from other assets or from both as the fiduciary, in his discretion, determines to be advisable; however, the amount of such additional compensation is subject to the final approval of the court.

15. To do all other acts and things not inconsistent with the provisions of the will or trust in which these powers are incorporated that the fiduciary deems necessary or desirable for the proper management of the trusts herein created, in the same manner and to the same extent as an individual could do with respect to his own property.

16. To hold property in the fiduciary's name or in the name of nominees.

17. During the minority, incapacity, or the disability of any beneficiary, and in the sole discretion of the fiduciary, to distribute income and principal to the beneficiary in any of the following ways: (i) directly to the beneficiary; (ii) to a relative, friend, guardian, conservator, or committee, to be expended by such person for the education, maintenance, support, or benefit of the beneficiary; (iii) by the fiduciary expending the same for the education, maintenance, support, or benefit of the beneficiary; (iv) to an adult person or bank authorized to exercise trust powers as custodian for a minor beneficiary under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (§ 64.2-1900 et seq.) to be held by such custodian under the terms of such act; or (v) to an adult person or bank authorized to exercise trust powers as custodial trustee for a beneficiary who is incapacitated as defined in § 64.2-900, under the Uniform Custodial Trust Act (§ 64.2-900 et seq.) to be held as custodial trustee under the terms of such act.

18. To continue and carry on any farming operation transferred to the fiduciary and to operate such farms and any other farm which may be acquired, including the power to (i) operate the farm with hired labor, tenants, or sharecroppers; (ii) hire a farm manager or a professional farm management service to supervise the farming operations; (iii) lease or rent the farm for cash or for a share of the crops; (iv) purchase or otherwise acquire farm machinery, equipment, and livestock; (v) construct, repair, and improve farm buildings of all sorts necessary, in the fiduciary's judgment, for the operation of the farm; (vi) make loans or advances or to obtain loans or advances from any source, including the fiduciary at the prevailing rate of interest for farm purposes including for production, harvesting, or marketing, for the construction, repair, or improvement of farm buildings, or for the purchase of farm machinery, equipment, or livestock; (vii) employ approved soil conservation practices in order to conserve, improve, and maintain the fertility and productivity of the soil; (viii) protect, manage, and improve the timber and forest on the farm and sell the timber and forest products when it is to the best interest of the estate or trust; (ix) ditch and drain damp or wet fields and areas of the farm when needed; (x) engage in livestock production, if it is deemed advisable, and to construct such fences and buildings and plant such pastures and crops as may be necessary to carry on a livestock program; (xi) execute contracts, notes, and chattel mortgages relating to agriculture with the Commodity Credit Corporation, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, or any other officer or agency of the federal or state government, to enter into acreage reduction agreements, to make soil conservation commitments, and to do all acts necessary to cooperate with any governmental agricultural program; and (xii) in general, employ the methods of carrying on the farming operation that are in common use by the community in which the farm is located. As the duties that the fiduciary is requested to assume with respect to farming operations may considerably enlarge and increase the fiduciary's usual responsibility and work as fiduciary, the fiduciary is entitled to such additional reasonable compensation as is commensurate with the time, effort, and responsibility involved in his performance of such services.

19. To purchase and hold life insurance policies on the life of any beneficiary, or any person in whom the beneficiary has an insurable interest, and pay the premiums thereon out of income or principal as the fiduciary deems appropriate; provided, however, that the decision of the beneficiary of any trust otherwise meeting the requirements of § 2056(b)(5) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, as amended, shall control in respect to the purchase or holding of a life insurance policy by the trustee of such trust.

20. To make any election, including any election permitted by statutes enacted after the date of execution of the will or trust instrument, authorized under any law requiring, or relating to the requirement for, payment of any taxes or assessments on assets or income of the estate or in connection with any fiduciary capacity, regardless of whether any property or income is received by or is under the control of the fiduciary, including, elections concerning the timing of payment of any such tax or assessment, the valuation of any property subject to any such tax or assessment, and the alternative use of items of deduction in computing any tax or assessment.

21. To comply with environmental law:

a. To inspect property held by the fiduciary, including interests in sole proprietorships, partnerships, or corporations and any assets owned by any such business enterprise, for the purpose of determining compliance with environmental law affecting such property and to respond to a change in, or any actual or threatened violation of, any environmental law affecting property held by the fiduciary;

b. To take, on behalf of the estate or trust, any action necessary to respond to a change in, or prevent, abate, or otherwise remedy any actual or threatened violation of, any environmental law affecting property held by the fiduciary, either before or after the initiation of an enforcement action by any governmental body;

c. To refuse to accept property in trust if the fiduciary determines that any property to be transferred to the trust either is contaminated by any hazardous substance or is being used or has been used for any activity directly or indirectly involving any hazardous substance which could result in liability to the trust or otherwise impair the value of the assets held therein;

d. To disclaim any power granted by any document, statute, or rule of law that, in the sole discretion of the fiduciary, may cause the fiduciary to incur personal liability under any environmental law; and

e. To charge the cost of any inspection, review, abatement, response, cleanup, or remedial action authorized herein against the income or principal of the trust or estate.

22. To resign as fiduciary if the fiduciary reasonably believes that there is or may be a conflict of interest between him in his fiduciary capacity and in his individual capacity because of potential claims or liabilities which may be asserted against him on behalf of the trust or estate because of the type or condition of assets held therein.

C. For the purposes of this section, unless the will or trust instrument expresses a contrary intention, the incorporation by reference of powers enumerated by this statute shall refer to those powers existing at the time of death and reference to powers under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act in an instrument executed prior to July 1, 1989, shall be construed to refer to the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (§ 64.2-1900 et seq.).

D. This section shall not be construed to affect the application of the standard of judgment and care as set forth in the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (§ 64.2-780 et seq.).

E. In the event that the will or trust instrument contains a provision in favor of a surviving spouse of the testator or grantor, the powers enumerated in this section shall not be construed or interpreted to cause the bequest to fail to qualify for the marital deduction permitted under the federal estate tax law, unless the will or trust instrument shall specifically provide to the contrary. A fiduciary acting under a construction or interpretation of a power, where such action is otherwise reasonable under the circumstances, shall incur no responsibility for acts taken in good faith that are otherwise thereafter contended to cause disqualification for the marital deduction. This subsection applies without regard to when the will or trust was executed or probated or when the testator died in relation to the effective date of this section or amendments thereto.

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