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.


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.

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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.


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.

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