It is an honor to be asked to be the executor of a loved one or friend’s estate. But, being an executor is a big responsibility that is not for everyone and could require the assistance of a will attorney at times. Availability of time, organizational skills, temperament, knowledge of state laws pertaining to executors are all factors to consider.
What Does an Executor Do?
An executor is entrusted with the duty of overseeing the disposition of the deceased’s property and possessions. The law does not require an executor to be a lawyer or financial expert. However, an executor has a fiduciary duty to act in good faith. He or she must do his or her due diligence with settling the deceased’s affairs and carrying through with the deceased’s wishes as specified in his or her will.
Depending on the complexity of the will and assets to be distributed, an executor could be required to:
- Locate the deceased’s assets, manage the assets, and keep them safe until they can be properly distributed according to the will or to any creditors.
- Determine if there is a need to probate the will through court.
- Contact and/or find the people who were named in the will who will be inheriting property or money from the deceased.
- Distribute the deceased property to the named recipients.
- File the will with the appropriate probate court even if it is not required to be probated.
- Close accounts for the deceased, including closing credit card accounts and notifying the Social Security Administration if the deceased received Social Security benefits.
- Open a bank account in the name of the estate to be used to pay off debts and make necessary payments.
- Continue to pay mortgage, insurance, and other necessary payments until the will has been administered.
- File final income taxes for the deceased and pay anything owed from the estate.
Avoiding Family Drama
Choosing an executor can cause conflict in a family. In instances where an adult child will be named as executor, it helps to explain to the other children why that child was chosen; e.g. eldest child or lives nearby.
The executor is not entitled to keep the assets he or she has taken responsibility of. Because this is a demanding and time-consuming task a fee should be specified for the executor. This should be explained beforehand to the family to avoid drama.