The executor or personal representative of a will is responsible for wrapping up the estate's affairs according to the will's instructions. After someone dies, the executor becomes responsible for the estate, and usually must report to the probate court. You can expect the executor to file the will with the court, manage the estate's assets, pay the estate's bills and distribute the remaining estate assets to the beneficiaries.
Filing the Will
The executor's first step is usually to file a copy of the will with the probate court. This action opens the probate process. Along with the will, the executor may file a petition for letters testamentary, which is an official court document that gives the executor the power to speak directly to the estate's creditors, handle the estate's bank accounts and take similar actions necessary to probate the estate, according to the American Bar Association.
Inventory the Estate
In order to fulfill his duties to pay creditors and distribute the estate, the executor is required to inventory the estate to determine the amount of assets it has, according to FindLaw. In most states, the executor is required to file a copy of the inventory with the probate court and to give copies of the inventory to the beneficiaries. The executor may hire professionals like an accountant, attorney or appraiser to help him determine the value of the estate's assets, if necessary, and may pay for the professionals' help with the estate's assets.
Pay the Estate's Debts
The executor is also responsible for paying any outstanding bills or debts the estate has. In order to do this, the executor is expected to contact any known creditors and also to notify any unknown creditors by placing an ad in the newspaper or by whichever other means the state's probate laws permit, according to FindLaw. State probate laws typically give creditors a certain time limit in which to present their bills to the estate. The executor must wait out this time limit to ensure all bills have reached the estate before proceeding to distribute the estate's assets. The executor must also settle the estate's final tax matters, and may hire an accountant at the estate's expense to do so.
Distribute the Estate's Assets
Once all the bills are paid, the executor must distribute the estate's assets according to the rules laid out in the will. Distributing assets may include giving particular items, like furniture and jewelry, to specific people named in the will. It may also involve giving certain amounts in cash to certain people or charities named in the will. In order to distribute the estate's assets according to the will's requirements, the executor may liquidate certain assets, like stock, if necessary, according to FindLaw.