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.

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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.

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Duties of a Will Executor


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What Is the Executor's Responsibility in Regards to Burial Expenses?

Executors, sometimes called personal representatives, are appointed by probate courts to administer the estates of a deceased person. An executor takes on the legal duty of gathering together the estate's assets and paying off its debts. Funeral costs fall under the category of estate debts that the executor legally must arrange to be paid.

What Happens After an Estate Has Been Probated?

Whether a person dies with our without a will, in most cases, his estate must go through the probate process. Although state probate laws vary, the probate process is fairly uniform throughout the United States. It is generally a court-supervised process for gathering the assets of the deceased, paying his creditors and taxes and then distributing his remaining assets to his beneficiaries if there is a will -- or to his heirs, according to the state's laws of intestate succession, if there is no will. During the probate process, real property owned by the deceased is retitled to his beneficiaries or heirs. To open probate and begin the process, an interested party, typically a beneficiary or heir, must file a petition with the state court that handles probate.

Who Enforces the Execution of a Will?

In drafting your will, you may appoint a person to serve as your executor, also known as a personal representative. This person will have the responsibility of carrying out your wishes pursuant to the will. Because the executor has a number of responsibilities and can be held personally responsible if they are not properly carried out, carefully consider appointing someone who is trustworthy and capable of carrying out the somewhat complicated probate process.

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