What Is the Meaning of "Executor of an Estate"?

By Maggie Lourdes

An executor is a person who manages the estate of the deceased, known as the decedent. Also called a personal representative, the executor is typically named in a will. A judge chooses and appoints an estate administrator if a decedent dies intestate, or without a will, or does not name an executor in his will. An estate administrator basically has duties and powers equivalent to an executor. Each state has individual laws regarding estates and executorships.

Opening Probate Estates

Probate refers to the legal process by which an estate is administered. After a will maker dies, someone must present the will to the appropriate state court to open the probate process. A named executor can open the probate process by presenting the will and filing a petition with the probate court in the county in which the decedent resided. The court charges a filing fee to open an estate. State law determines the exact procedure for opening a probate case. The court reviews the will for its validity, and if it is deemed valid, a judge officially appoints the nominated executor to act for the estate.

Executor's Duties

An executor's main duty is to distribute a decedent's estate. The executor has the duty and power to perform tasks like closing bank accounts, selling real estate, signing car titles, paying estate bills and filing estate tax returns. Once the estate debts are satisfied, executors must distribute the remaining estate property to the beneficiaries named in the will. If no will exists, an administrator must distribute a decedent's property to his heirs according to the state's laws of intestacy. Executors must also provide an inventory for the court, listing the estate's assets and debts, as well as a final accounting, indicating how debts were satisfied and assets distributed.

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Professional Help

An executor may us estate money to hire professionals to help him administer a decedent's estate. For example, an executor can retain experts like attorneys, accountants and appraisers. The executor, herself, also may be compensated for her work. State laws determine reasonable fees for executors. Fees can be calculated by the hour or be based on a percentage of the estate's value.

Personal Liability

An executor has no personal liability for a decedent's bills. Therefore, a decedent's bill collectors cannot sue an executor because the estate does not have the funds to fulfill all the debts. An executor can be sued by a decedent's beneficiaries and heirs if she depletes estate money through mismanagement, fraud, or self-dealing. For example, if an executor personally buys a piece of rare, artwork from the estate for less than its fair market value, he may be forced to pay the estate for the loss incurred.

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What Are the Duties of an Executor of a Will in Missouri?

References

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What Are the Duties of an Executor of a Will in Delaware?

In Delaware, residents may draft wills directing the distribution of their property after death. A testator, or will maker, typically names an executor in his will whose primary duty will be to gather and distribute his assets upon his death. The Register of Wills formally appoints the executor. Once a formal appointment is made, the executor can legally carry out his duties of administering the decedent's estate.

What Does it Mean to Be the Executor to a Will?

The executor to a will is the person chosen by the probate judge to act as the administrator of a deceased person’s estate during the probate process. The executor is often someone who was nominated for this role in the will, but the judge makes the ultimate decision as to who will serve in this capacity. In addition to the personal obligations an executor might feel toward the deceased, the executor has legal responsibilities to the estate, its creditors and beneficiaries.

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