Executor of Will Responsibilities

by Laura Myers

    An executor is someone who has been named in a will to administer the testator’s estate after he has died. The executor has a wide array of responsibilities to the decedent, the beneficiaries, the government and the court. The rules for executors vary from state to state, so it is important to verify the specific requirements for each jurisdiction.

    Responsibilities to Testator

    The responsibility of the executor to the testator is to carry out his wishes as they were expressed in the will. This normally includes overseeing the funeral and disposal of the body, taking care of assets, preparing an inventory, paying taxes and debts, and distributing property to beneficiaries. It may also involve making sure that children are properly connected with their appointed guardian. After the entire process is complete, they are also responsible for closing the estate.

    Responsibilities to Beneficiaries

    Executors have serious responsibilities to the beneficiaries, as well. For one thing, they must be located and kept informed of the status of the will. It may be required of the executor to set up and administer a trust on behalf of certain beneficiaries, depending on their ages and the terms of the will. In addition, they are responsible for protecting the estate. One way to easily cause financial damage is to not pay taxes and bills on time, and then be required to pay penalties.

    Responsibilities to Government

    An executor’s main responsibility to government is to pay the required taxes. According to the American Bar Association, there are usually two kinds of tax returns that you must file. The first is a personal return on behalf of the decedent, and the second is for the estate. In order to file a tax return for the estate, the executor must first apply for a new tax identification number. The American Bar Association adds that sometimes the estate or trust has to pay estimated taxes each quarter.

    Responsibilities to Probate Court

    An executor's main responsibility to the court is to comply with state and federal laws and regulations. In order to do this, they are expected to find out what those laws and rules are. Generally, an executor will be required to publish an advertisement in a local newspaper concerning the testator’s outstanding debts, file the will, notify beneficiaries and others who may be entitled to be beneficiaries, petition the court for letters testamentary and file other documents as necessary.

    About the Author

    Laura Myers has been writing professionally since 1992. She has edited the print publications "Stamp Stories" and "Chiaroscuro." Myers holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Law from the University of Victoria and is a certified family law mediator. She also holds diplomas in early childhood education and interior design.

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