Role of Will Executor

By A.L. Kennedy

The executor of a will, also known as the personal representative, is the person who will carry out the instructions in your will when you die, according to FindLaw. The executor is responsible for wrapping up the affairs of your estate, including filing the will with the probate court, paying any debts, distributing the estate's assets and defending the validity of your will if it is challenged, according to FindLaw.

Opening Probate

When you die, either your executor or the person who has your will may file it with the probate court, according to the American Bar Association. However, your executor must petition the probate court to open a probate claim and to issue letters testamentary, which give the executor the power to pay your debts, distribute your assets and do whatever else is necessary to take care of your property after you die, according to FindLaw.

Paying Debts

Your executor is responsible for notifying your creditors of your death and for paying your outstanding debts with money from your estate, according to FindLaw. For instance, the executor will pay any bills related to your last illness, as well as your funeral and burial expenses, from the estate's money. The executor is not personally responsible for your debts. Once your estate runs out of money, no more creditors are paid, according to FindLaw.

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Distributing Assets

Once all your debts are paid, the executor is responsible for distributing any property left in your estate, according to FindLaw. In most states, the executor may have property appraised if necessary and may pay the appraiser for his services from the estate's funds. The executor is also responsible in most states for filing an accounting of your estate's assets with the probate court before the executor distributes them to your beneficiaries, according to FindLaw.

Defending Your Will

If one of your beneficiaries or another interested person contests the validity of your will in court, your executor is responsible for defending the validity of your will. In most states, your executor may hire an attorney to help her defend your will in court and may pay the attorney from the estate's assets. Common will contests that executors must defend against include claims that you were not competent to make a will, that you were forced or coerced into leaving your assets to someone, or that part or all of your will was forged, according to FindLaw.

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Can the Executor of a Will Spend the Money Any Way He Wants?

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What Happens When You Inherit Money?

If someone dies after having established a living trust, the trust assets won't go through probate. Assets, including any money that you've inherited, can be immediately distributed by the trustee under the terms of the trust deed. On the other hand, when someone dies and you inherit money under a will, you probably won't get the money immediately. The will must first go through probate, a process that determines whether the will is valid and allows interested parties to contest it.

How to Probate a Will in the State of North Carolina

Most testators designate an executor in their wills in order to ensure that the probate process runs smoothly. When you take office as the executor of an estate in North Carolina, the court gives you letters authorizing you to act on the estate’s behalf. Unless the deceased specifically stated in his will that you need to post bond or an insurance policy against any wrongdoing, North Carolina does not require you to do this. Once you have your letters, you can begin administering probate.

Filing a Complaint Against the Decedent in Probate Court

Technically, you cannot file a legal complaint or initiate a lawsuit against someone who has died. However, this doesn’t mean you have no recourse if he wronged you in some way or owes you money. You can file some lawsuits against his estate instead.

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