Duties of an Executor Named in a Will
When named as an executor in a will (or executrix if a female), the executor should make sure he or she knows what is required before accepting the responsibility. The testator (the individual whose will it is) decides in the document if the executor is compensated for serving as executor or not compensated.
As a general definition, an executor is legally responsible for sorting out the finances of the decedent, making sure debts and taxes are paid, and distributing remaining property to the beneficiaries named in the will.
Here’s what the Executor of a Will Needs to Get Done:
1. Find the original will and contact a probate attorney.
The executor is in charge of locating the original will and contacting a probate attorney to discuss what needs to happen next. The attorney will advise of any option available to probate the will. For example, in Texas, an administration may be necessary if there are debts, or if no debts, a Muniment of Title may suffice, thereby saving the estate time and expense.
2. Notify banks, credit card companies, government agencies (SS, Medicaid, Medicare, VA), insurance companies, and employers of the decedent’s death.
These are just some of the organizations who should be notified of the death.File the original will with the appropriate Court along with the required probate documents.
3. Attend the court hearing and be appointed as the executor.
4. Give notice to creditors.
5. Set up an estate account at a bank with the necessary court documents.
If the decedent is owed money such as incoming paychecks, this account can hold them. An executor should be on the lookout for mortgages, utilities and similar bills that still need to be paid throughout the probate process.
7. File an inventory of the estate’s assets with the court
If there are debts that need to be paid, the court requires the executor to submit a detailed inventory of the assets in probate estate.
8. Maintain property until it can be distributed or sold
This includes keeping up a house until it is distributed to heirs or sold—even deciding whether property needs to be sold at all. Also, an executor must be sure to find all personal property in the estate and protect it until distribution. If the decedent had a safety deposit box, the executor should locate it and keep it safe.
9. Pay the estate’s debts and taxes.
State law dictates the procedure for notifying creditors, and the estate must also file final income tax returns from the first of the current year until the date of the decedent’s death. If the estate is large enough, there may be state and/or federal estate taxes to pay as well.
10. Distribute assets.
Distribution occurs according to the wishes expressed in the Will. If there is no Will, state intestacy laws apply.
11. Represent the estate in court.
An executor may be required to appear in court on behalf of the estate.
Probate sounds like a complex and expensive process. However, probate is actually a very common legal procedure and is the way that some assets must be formally passed from the decedent to his or her heirs or beneficiaries. Probate is not how it was “back in the day.” Today, probate law is streamlined. Absent any family conflicts or contests, probate can be wrapped up relatively quickly.
Check out Frequently Asked Questions about probate by clicking here.