An Executor of an estate is simply the person who is designated to carry out the wishes set forth in the decedent’s will. This person also has the responsibility of finishing up the decedent’s final affairs, such as paying outstanding bills and taxes. An Executor is usually named by the decedent in his or her will, and a judge will need to validate that choice before the Executor can begin to carry out his or her duties. If the deceased did not have a will at the time of his or her passing, a judge will choose an Executor—also called a personal representative– to serve in this role.
If you have been named as an Executor or personal representative, you will likely find yourself in need of assistance from an experienced probate attorney. A probate attorney will help you complete your duties in a timely manner while guiding you through more complicated tasks of administering an estate, such as ordering appraisals, notifying creditors, liquidating assets, and filing tax returns.
Duties of an Executor
An Executor or personal representative will want to follow the will as closely as possible. This requires putting aside the Executor’s own desires and focusing on what they think the decedent would have wanted. As an Executor or personal representative, your job will primarily be to:
- Find all parts of the estate and file a complete inventory of assets
- Pay the bills owed by the estate
- Manage the estate’s assets as required throughout the process
- Distribute assets to heirs and beneficiaries as instructed by the will
- Close the estate once everything is ready
A note of caution: Just because you were nominated in the will does not mean that the courts have to accept you as representative. However, before the courts even get involved, you are within your rights to carry out certain instructions in the will, particularly in regard to body and funeral arrangements. It may also be wise to begin gathering and protecting assets while you search for the original will. The original will is most often kept in a safe deposit box, at home in a safe or lockbox, or with the decedent’s wills and trusts attorney.
Remember, most Executors end up working with a probate attorney after the loss of a loved one…and for good reason! Administering an estate can be expensive, frustrating, and you could be held liable by heirs for any unintentional mistakes or oversights while carrying out your duties. To ensure that the job is done correctly and that you are making decisions according to the laws and in the best interest of heirs, talk to a probate attorney about what may be required of you. If you’d like to meet with a probate attorney, simply call us to schedule a complimentary consultation.