What Does the Executor of a Will Do?

by Rob Jennings

    Being named as the executor of a person's will can be a great honor; as the individual chosen by the deceased to manage his affairs after death, the executor is generally a person the deceased trusted to carry out his last wishes. The executor of a will must exercise the utmost fiduciary care and diligence in administering the decedent's estate.

    Preserve and Manage Estate Property

    One of the main jobs of the executor consists of locating all of the deceased's property and preserving it for distribution to the beneficiaries named in the will. This can be a daunting task, as some of the property may be in the hands of third parties who may not be entitled to possess it. Executors must retrieve motor vehicles from people the deceased had allowed to use them, collect rent on real property, make decisions on investment accounts and collect on debts owed to the deceased. The executor also has to maintain a separate bank account for collecting funds owed to the estate.

    Manage Estate Debts and Expenses

    The executor must also manage the estate's debts and expenses. Making mortgage payments and car payments out of the estate's accounts, paying taxes and maintaining animals and real property are all tasks attended to by the executor. The executor also has to assess claims against the estate and satisfy the deceased's just debts. Sometimes this entails selling estate property and using the proceeds to pay those debts.

    Probate the Will

    The executor files the will with the clerk of the court in the deceased's county and guides the estate through the probate process. The executor files all necessary documents with the estates division of the clerk's office, files extensions where necessary, publishes the notice to creditors, provides accountings of the deceased's property and verifies claims.

    Distribute Property to Heirs

    After using estate property to settle all valid claims against the estate, the executor must distribute the remaining assets to the heirs named in the will. This can often be a considerable job, as a deceased may have named many heirs whose whereabouts can often be difficult to ascertain. Sometimes, a person entitled to receive a share of the decedent's estate has herself passed away, creating issues with locating that person's heirs and distributing her share to them. Making mistakes in distributing estate property can leave an executor open to lawsuits by people prejudiced by the executor's errors; as such, many executors choose to enlist the services of an experienced wills and estates attorney in carrying out their duties under the will.

    About the Author

    A practicing attorney since 2003, Rob Jennings has written fiction and nonfiction since 2005, with his work appearing in a variety of print and online publications. He earned his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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