How to Sign Legal Documents as the Executor of a Will

by John Cromwell

An executor is a person named in a will and appointed by a court to oversee the process of probating an estate and act as its legal representative. Much of the probate process involves signing legal documents. These documents may include deeds for transferring property, tax returns, documents for closing accounts and other assorted contracts. It is the executor's role as legal representative to sign these documents on behalf of the estate. However, it is important to sign these forms in such a way so that it is clear the signee is acting only on behalf of the estate and not agreeing to take on any personal liability or responsibility for a particular transaction.

Step 1

Check the document you have to sign to see if it has a designated area for you to sign in your capacity as executor. Follow that process if it does. Many of the documents you will need to sign as executor of an estate are provided by another party who routinely deals with estate executors. As a result, many of these documents will provide a means for you to signal you are signing as an executor. For example, the Internal Revenue Service requires an executor to sign a decedent’s final tax return by entering the term “deceased,” the decedent’s name and date of death across the top of the return. The executor then signs the return with his name followed by the phrase “personal representative.”

Step 2

If the document does not state how to sign as an executor, ask the other party how to do so. The party requesting you sign the document should be able to help you with this task. Asking how to sign as an executor also ensures the other party has notice prior to you signing the contract that you are signing only as the estate's representative.

Step 3

Include an “executor” provision in the contract, if the document can be amended. A possible clause you may want to include in a contract you are signing as executor is the following: “This contract is signed by John Doe as executor of the estate of Harry Doe. John Doe’s signature represents a promise to pay only to the extent that the estate’s assets are sufficient and it is agreed that any judgment will only be satisfied out of the estate. John Doe is not personally liable for this contact.”