Executor of a Will: What Do They Do?

When you are chosen to serve as the executor of someone’s will after they pass away, you take on important legal and financial duties. Being an executor involves much more than just distributing inheritance gifts! Settling an estate can be complex and time consuming.

In this post, we’ll break down exactly what an executor is expected to do when wrapping up a deceased person’s affairs and carrying out their final wishes. We’ll also provide tips on choosing the right executor.

What is an Executor of a Will?

An executor is the person named in a will to administer the estate of someone who has died. They are appointed by the probate court after the will is validated. Serving as executor is a big responsibility that should not be taken lightly!

The executor’s main duties include:

  • Filing the will with probate court to open probate
  • Notifying beneficiaries and heirs
  • Creating a complete inventory of estate assets
  • Paying outstanding debts and taxes
  • Managing day-to-day affairs of the estate
  • Liquidating assets if necessary
  • Obtaining appraisals of valuable assets
  • Distributing remaining assets per the will’s instructions

The Role and Responsibilities of the Executor of a Will

Settling the Estate

One of the first things an executor must do is identify and inventory all the assets of the estate. This includes things like:

  • Real estate
  • Bank accounts
  • Investment accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Vehicles
  • Jewelry, art, collectibles
  • Insurance policies

The executor also puts together a list of any debts and taxes owed. They use estate assets to pay all legitimate claims. Liquidating some assets may be necessary to have cash to pay expenses.

Filing Probate Paperwork

The executor has to officially notify the court that they accept the appointment through signed paperwork. They also file petitions and statements required to open probate and keep it moving along.

Notifying Beneficiaries

Part of the probate process involves properly notifying all beneficiaries named in the will that probate is open. The executor provides them copies of the petition and will.

Managing Assets

While in probate, the executor continues managing the estate assets prudently. This can include things like:

  • Paying insurance and utilities on properties
  • Renewing licenses/registrations
  • Consolidating bank accounts
  • Investing assets in stable accounts
  • Collecting any debts owed to the estate

Keeping Detailed Records

Thorough bookkeeping is a must! The executor will have to provide a complete accounting of all estate income and expenses at the close of probate.

Filing Tax Returns

Federal and state tax returns must be filed on behalf of the deceased. The executor is responsible for this task on behalf of the estate.

Distributing Assets

Once all debts and taxes are paid, the executor distributes what’s left to heirs and beneficiaries according to the will’s wishes. It’s helpful for the executor to prepare a distribution schedule for heirs to understand their share.

Closing the Estate

The executor wraps up by filing final paperwork with the court and obtaining court approval to close probate. All beneficiaries must sign off that they have received distributions.

Tips for Choosing an Executor

Picking the right executor is an important decision. Here are some tips:

  • Choose someone you trust and who is familiar with your financial affairs. They will need to access personal documents.
  • Select someone willing and able to take on the significant responsibility. Make sure they have the time and organization skills.
  • Discuss the position with the person first to ensure they understand the duties and obligations involved.
  • Consider naming alternative executors in case your first choice is unable to serve.

Key Tips for Executors

Serving as an executor is a big job! Here are some tips to help the process go smoothly:

  • Work with an estate attorney – they can guide you through the required procedures and paperwork.
  • Stay organized – keep meticulous records of everything related to administering the estate.
  • Communicate regularly with beneficiaries – keep them informed of the process and avoid surprises.
  • Invest wisely – make conservative investments while waiting to distribute assets.
  • Pay close attention to deadlines – don’t miss any court or tax filing deadlines.
  • Sell property strategically – work with real estate professionals to optimize sales prices.
  • Settle disputes diplomatically – try to mediate any estate conflicts out of court.
  • Don’t DIY taxes – hire experienced tax preparers to file estate tax returns.

The job of the executor is demanding but also an honor. Being organized, asking for help when needed, and maintaining open communication are the best ways to settle an estate properly. With some time and effort, you can successfully carry out this important role.