Your Responsibilities as the Executor of a Will

December 4, 2020

Being selected as executor of a will is an honor that comes with incredible responsibility. A loved one has determined that you’re the most trusted person to care for their wishes. Before that person (decedent) passes away, an attorney or legal service creates a plan that outlines the distribution of their assets; as well as who will manage this plan. 

HereToday is not a legal service, so please seek professional advice when creating any legal document or have legal questions. We provide a platform that shares and distributes a loved one’s most valuable documents to you, the executor, at the appropriate time. In this post we’ll outline a few elements and responsibilities of being an executor.

CNBC’s article “How to get it right when naming an executor and filling other key roles in your estate plan,” written by Sarah O’Brien, outlines tips for selecting the right person to fill this important role.

You’ve been named an executor. Now what do you do?

In generic terms, an executor is the individual designated to legally fulfill the final wishes of the decedent, as denoted in the will. When a person passes away most of their assets and liabilities are transferred to the estate. It’s the responsibility of the executor to settle all outstanding liabilities, such as paying off creditors, before distributing the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries. This entire process can be expected to take up a year to settle depending on the complexity of the estate. 

Among the many responsibilities as an executor of a will, you’ll need to document your activities, keep your loved one’s assets safe until they can be properly distributed to the beneficiaries, as well as to any creditors. It will be up to you to determine which assets, including real property, must be sold and what assets need to be kept. Additionally, you’ll need to contact everyone listed in the will to ensure they receive their inheritance. Lastly it’s your duty to cancel credit cards and coordinate with any creditors, and pay any final income taxes; plus you need to contact and update all government agencies, such as the IRS and the Social Security Administration.  

Settling an Estate

Due to the complexities of settling an estate, it’s often recommended you work with an estate lawyer for guidance. A lawyer can determine if the will is valid; as well as if the will must go into probate. If the will goes into probate, a judge will rule on the validity of the will; additionally, they’ll determine if you, as the executor, are qualified to serve in this position. Learn more about probate preparation and guidance.

As you take on the burden and stress of settling the affairs of a loved one, you’re entitled to compensation. Payment is typically to cover any legal fees or other expenses incurred during this event. The estate will pay these fees prior to beneficiaries receiving their allocation. 

Ultimately your responsibilities are to ensure a loved one’s wishes are being upheld. It’s recommended you create a checklist of all assets and liabilities, match known items with the beneficiaries listed in the will, and then determine how best to make the distribution. Before any of these actions take place, it’s strongly suggested you consult a lawyer and accountant for guidance. Above all else, it’s your job to protect the deceased assets.


Disclaimer. HereToday is not a legal service. This content should not be taken as legal advice. Before drafting any legal document, please consult an attorney.

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