Your last will and testament leaves instructions on how your property should be handled after you die. Your will should name someone you trust to do the work of following the instructions in your will. This person is known as your executor -- executrix, if female -- or personal representative. The executor works with the probate court to settle your estate.
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You may choose anyone you like to be your executor, as long as that person is at least 18 years old and mentally competent, according to the American Bar Association. Most people choose someone they know and trust, and who agrees to be their executor, such as their spouse, a sibling or an adult child. You may also name a backup executor in your will in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to perform the duties of executor after your death.
If neither your first nor second choice for executor can serve, or if both decide they do not want to serve as your executor, the probate court will appoint someone to serve as executor, according to FindLaw. In most states, the probate court appoints someone who has an interest in your will, such as a beneficiary or, in rare cases, one of your creditors.
Your executor is responsible for wrapping up your estate. This may include paying any debts you have left behind, including your medical bills and funeral or burial expenses. It may also include making an inventory of your estate's assets, locating your beneficiaries and distributing your assets to them according to the way your will directs. An executor may also be called upon to defend your will's validity in court if someone files a will contest against it.
Your executor is entitled to compensation for the work he does in settling your estate. The amount of compensation an executor can receive is set by state law. Some states give a small percentage of the estate's assets to the executor as payment, while others permit the executor to receive an hourly wage. Your executor may choose to give up his compensation, according to FindLaw.
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