Instructions for Executors of Wills

By Laura Wallace Henderson

Your appointment to serve as the executor of a will entails important responsibilities. This election means the deceased person has entrusted you with the task of carrying out certain legal actions. You may wish to consult an attorney, at the expense of the estate, to guide you through this process. An attorney can help you understand the laws that govern your appointment and responsibilities.


Wills provide a written record of the decedent’s wishes regarding the division of assets, as well as outlining methods of providing for the physical and financial guardianship roles of any minor children. This written instrument also appoints an individual or an entity to act on behalf of the decedent, directing them to carry out the instructions in the will.


The executor’s responsibilities may vary depending on state regulations, the decedent’s wishes and the court’s rulings. Basic responsibilities normally include obtaining a copy of the latest will, filing a petition with the court to admit the written will to probate, collecting the decedent’s assets, obtaining access to any safe deposit boxes, filing the decedent’s income tax returns and paying any valid claims against the estate. Some situations may also require the named executor to safeguard business interests, collect life insurance proceeds, inventory real estate deeds and provide management for any rental properties.

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In addition to the will, the decedent may leave a list of instructions directed to the executor of the estate. This provides an outline of the decedent’s personal wishes regarding issues not covered in the will. The list of instructions may include specific division of assets, and allotting certain items to individual beneficiaries such as children and charities. The list may also include the preferred method of burial and funeral instructions. Although the list of instructions may not be part of the legal document, it provides directions to the executor regarding the final wishes of the decedent.


The executor must file various documents with the court during the probate procedures, depending on individual state requirements. After performing all the required actions, the executor files an affidavit with the court, closing the probate. This action provides a legal notification that the executor’s responsibilities and the estate settlements are complete.

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Maine Statutes for Executors of Wills

In Maine, the executor of a will is referred to as a personal representative. The statutes regarding the duties of the personal representative are found under "Probate of Wills and Administration," in Maine's Revised Statutes. A personal representative may be a relative or friend of the decedent or an attorney or financial institution.

When to Notify the Executor of a Will

Called a personal representative in some states, the executor named in a will assumes responsibility for administering the decedent's estate after formal appointment by the probate court. The executor should be notified as soon as possible after the death of the decedent. The role of executor entails great responsibility, as this person is entrusted with paying the decedent's debts and taxes, managing assets and ensuring those assets eventually pass to the rightful beneficiaries.

Duties of the Executor of a Will in Texas

Wills often nominate an executor to administer the deceased’s estate after he dies. Once officially appointed by a Texas court, the executor must gather the assets of the deceased, notify his creditors and pay his debts and taxes. After all this is done, the executor distributes the deceased’s remaining assets to those entitled to receive them under the terms of the will.

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