When to Notify the Executor of a Will

By Jane Meggitt

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.


An estate's executor may be a spouse, relative or friend of the decedent, or an attorney or financial professional. When planning your estate, make sure beforehand that the person you choose as executor is willing and able to assume this responsibility. It is always a good idea to name an alternate executor in case the primary executor is unable to assume the responsibility. You should also discuss the appointment with your alternate executor before you name her in your will. Laws regarding executors vary by state. In some states, the executor must be a state resident to act in this capacity. If you choose a non-state resident, the executor may need to have a state resident designated by the court to co-qualify; this is the case in the state of Virginia. In New York, if an executor is not a state resident, he must file a bond with the probate court.


Probate is the legal process through which a person's property is transferred to heirs and beneficiaries. The process includes satisfying creditors. To begin the probate process, an interested party must file the will at the probate court, typically in the county where the decedent resided, along with a certified copy of the death certificate and any other documents required by that particular jurisdiction. Depending on the state, there may be a time limit on filing for probate, often within a month of the decedent's death. After appointing the executor, the court issues documents, called Letters Testamentary in some states, allowing the executor to start estate administration.

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The executor must notify all beneficiaries named in the will. She must publish a notice to the decedent's creditors in a local newspaper, inventory all assets titled solely in the decedent's name and establish the value at the time of death, along with paying the estate's debts. She must file the decedent's final income tax return and the estate return, paying any taxes due. The executor manages all the estate assets and hires any professionals such as appraisers, attorneys and accountants. When all bills and taxes are paid, the executor submits a final accounting to the court. Once approved, she distributes the remaining assets to beneficiaries.


Probate can be a lengthy process, depending on the size and nature of the estate. From the time the executor is notified of the decedent's death until estate settlement can take a year or more, again depending on the size of the estate and market conditions. For example, it may take longer to settle an estate if the decedent's home is a major asset and needs repair before sale, or if the real estate market is slow. State statutes include executor compensation, usually based on a percentage of the estate's value. The executor may also waive compensation.

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Can Executors of Estates Get Paid?


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Does an Executor of a Will Receive More?

The job of an executor is to handle the estate of the deceased. In most cases, the deceased names the executor in his will. When there is no will, or when an executor can't complete the task, a probate court will appoint one. Under state probate rules, executors are responsible for filing the petition of probate and the will with the probate court and then seeing the process through to final distribution of the deceased's assets. Acting as an executor can be a complex and time-consuming process, but fortunately state laws also allow for fair compensation to executors from the estate assets.

How to Settle an Estate After a Death Without a Lawyer

When it's time, a probate court will handle your estate. State law and court rules govern the process, so they can vary a little by jurisdiction. Having a legal representative might be helpful for an executor, but it's not necessary. If you feel strongly that your executor should have legal guidance, you can include this requirement in your will.

Executor of Estate Law in Ohio

An executor is the person appointed, in your will, to administer your estate after your death. Your executor should be someone you trust to disburse your property to your beneficiaries according to your wishes. While you are free to name your executor, Ohio law does set forth certain requirements to ensure the probate process goes smoothly. The probate court must approve the executor before he starts work. If you do not have a will, the court will appoint an administrator. Collectively, executors and administrators are referred to as personal representatives.

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