Estate Law Questions? Ask an Estate Lawyer.
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What many people don't realize is that when someone is named in a will as executor, that is just basically a request by the testator for them to assume that role and file a probate case to settle the estate. But they don't have any formal legal authority until a judge actually appoints them to that position. Then they can gather assets, pay any debts, file any final taxes, then distribute the surplus to the heirs and close the estate.
So yes, you would need to be formally appointed as executor of the estate because as it stands right now, you don't have any legal authority to do anything with estate assets.
But the IRA will go directly to the named beneficiaries outside of probate.
Ok, if you have actually been named as executor, then you are good to go as that gives you legal authority to take possession and control over all the assets of the estate. So if you got an EIN for the estate through the IRS website, then you can open up an estate account at a bank, liquidate those stocks, and then have the money transferred into the estate account to use for estate expenses and then eventually distribution to the heirs.