When a person dies, all their possessions and assets go into their estate to await distribution. An individual must then manage and distribute these assets per the instructions of the will. This person is the executor.
Being chosen as an executor means that the deceased individual trusts that person to distribute their assets honestly and fairly. Being named as an executor is a great honor and an intimidating responsibility.
Responsibilities of the executor
There are few limitations on who people can name as the executor. Executors cannot be felons or minors, and some states may have limitations on where the executor must live. Executors do not require any previous financial or legal knowledge either. An executor regularly consults with an attorney to help with anything overly complicated.
The law expects the executor to perform the following duties with the utmost honesty and diligence:
- Locating the deceased’s assets: An executor must locate, and keep safe, the assets of the deceased until their distribution. An executor will also decide which assets to keep and which to sell.
- Choosing to probate the will: Sometimes, a will may require validation through the state courts, called probate. The law generally requires that an executor file the will in probate even if the will does not require validation.
- Locating beneficiaries: The executor is responsible for getting the assets to the people named in the will.
- Finishing financial affairs: An executor will need to cancel the deceased credit cards, notify banks that hold accounts and informing the Social Security Administration. An executor will also pay off outstanding debts, creditors and even the final income taxes for the deceased. Setting up a separate bank account for the funds of the estate can make this process easier, as well as enable continuing payments on mortgages or insurance.
- Ensuring property distribution: Executors distribute property following the instructions of the will and pass along any property not named according to the guidelines of the law.
Inquire with an attorney
Those named as executors may have questions about the expectations and responsibilities of the position. A local attorney familiar with estate planning can provide answers and legal advice.