Legal Responsibility of Executors of a Will

by A.L. Kennedy
The executor of a will has responsibilities in and out of court.

The executor of a will has responsibilities in and out of court.

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The executor of a will is responsible for paying the bills and distributing the estate's assets by following the instructions in the will. The executor also reports to the probate court, which supervises the executor's work to be sure it is done according to the will and to state law.

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Notify Interested Parties

The executor, who may also be known in some states as a personal representative, is responsible for notifying certain people when the testator, or person who made the will, dies. Although each state's laws specify who must be notified, the executor is generally responsible for notifying the beneficiaries listed in the will, anyone to whom the estate or testator owes a debt, and anyone who would receive some or all of the estate if the testator's will is found not to be valid, according to FindLaw.

Manage Estate Assets

Most probate courts require an executor or personal representative to make an inventory of all the estate's assets. In addition, the executor is legally responsible for managing the assets. What type of management is required depends on what kind of assets the executor is managing. For instance, if the assets include real estate, the executor should ensure the real estate is kept secure and in good condition until it can be given to the beneficiary who is to receive it according to the will.

Pay Bills and Distribute Assets

The executor or personal representative is also responsible for paying the estate's bills and giving each beneficiary listed in the will her share of the remaining assets. In most states, the executor must wait a certain amount of time after notifying the estate's creditors. This time frame gives the creditors a chance to send in their final bills. The executor may liquidate estate assets to pay the bills, if necessary. Once the waiting period is up and all bills are paid, the executor may begin distributing estate assets.

Defend the Will

Once a will is filed with the probate court, anyone who may receive part of the estate depending on whether or not the will is valid may file a will contest, or will challenge. If a will contest is filed in the probate court, the executor or personal representative has the legal responsibility to argue in court that the will is valid. The executor may hire an attorney to help him defend the will, and he may pay the attorney's fees and court costs from the estate's assets in most cases, according to FindLaw.