What Is the Responsibility of the Executor of a Will?

By Laura Wallace Henderson

Planning ahead includes examining many aspects of your future, such as retirement and investments. Responsible planning also involves considering the division of your assets upon your death. Your will allows you to provide instructions for managing your estate and distributing your belongings. Your will also provides a method of designating your choice of guardian for your minor children or pets.

Executor

Your executor is the individual who oversees the actions involved in carrying out the directives in your will. Select someone you trust to act in your stead, such as an attorney, close friend or family member. The amount of time and effort your executor must spend on his responsibilities depends on the complexity of your will and the size of your estate. Your executor may hire an attorney at the expense of your estate to help carry out these important responsibilities.

Court Actions

Upon your death, your executor will submit your will to the court, beginning the legal process known as probate. The court will appoint your executor to serve in this capacity. The court will provide your executor with written documentation, commonly called letters testamentary, that grants him the official permission to act on behalf of your estate. Your executor must notify the public, your beneficiaries, and interested individuals and entities of your death. After carrying out the instructions in your will and the court’s directives, your executor will file the final paperwork with the court, formally closing out your estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Financial Responsibilities

The financial responsibilities can vary greatly, depending on the specific characteristics of your estate. General duties your executor must carry out include establishing estate bank accounts to manage your money, paying court costs, paying any taxes due on your estate and settling any outstanding debts.

Inventory

Your executor will establish the value of your estate by taking an inventory of all your assets, as well as your debts and expenses. This process may include identifying and locating bank accounts, real estate property, stock holdings, business interests, retirement assets and personal effects. Your executor must submit a written accounting of your inventory to the court. This responsibility can be one of the most time-consuming tasks your executor performs in managing your estate.

Asset Distribution

After paying taxes, expenses and debts, your executor will distribute your assets to the individuals and charities you designate in your will. Detailed and accurate instructions will help your executor carry out this responsibility. His responsibilities include dispensing your personal belongings to your beneficiaries, as well as making donations and charitable contributions as outlined in your will.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Process of a Will in Probate

References

Related articles

Legal Process of Benefactors in a Will

When you create a will, you leave directions for your loved ones to follow when distributing your estate. Your benefactors, or beneficiaries, however, don’t receive their inheritances automatically when you pass away. Instead, your estate must go through your state’s probate processes before it can be distributed. Though specific procedures vary among the states, the basic process remains the same in most areas.

Can a Power of Attorney Create a Will?

Planning for your future includes considering the possibility of your incapacitation. A legal document, known as a power of attorney, allows you to designate one or more individuals to take care of a variety of responsibilities if you are unavailable or incapable of performing these on your own. The details you include in your power of attorney document will help define the responsibilities and limitations this written instrument allows.

What Kind of Lawyer Do I Need to Make a Will?

Lawyers supply a variety of legal services that range from defending individuals charged with crimes to providing large corporations with legal directives. While some law firms offer general legal assistance in many areas, such as divorce, adoption and basic litigation, lawyers that specialize in estate planning offer legal expertise in the creation of wills and trusts.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

What Is a Last Will & Testament For?

Although you may prefer to contemplate more pleasant circumstances, planning for your death allows you to retain some ...

Components of a Legal Will

While thinking about your death may not appeal to you, estate planning is an important part of managing your assets. ...

Things to Think About When Writing a Will

While writing a will is an important part of planning for your eventual death, many people neglect this responsibility. ...

How to Address the Executor of an Estate in a Letter

Think of your executor as the co-pilot of your assets; when you are no longer able to captain your affairs, she takes ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED