What Does an Executor Do?

Many wonder what is the actual definition of an executor – hopefully the following information will help solve any mystery behind the role of an executor.

Executor Definition: Oversees disposition of property and possessions

Acting as the executor of someone’s last will and testament is both an honor and a one of the most stressful experiences of one’s life.  An executor is assigned with the significant responsibility of ensuring that a person’s final wishes are completed in regards to the distribution of their possessions and property.

Basically, an executor is responsible for ensuring that all debts and creditors of the decedent are repaid, and if any money or property remains after that it is distributed in accordance with their wishes.  Even though the law does not require that an executor be a financial or legal expert, it does demand that every executor fulfill all tasks with the greatest diligence and with honesty.  The term for this is known as “fiduciary duty,” which means than an executor is required to act in good faith with regards to a person’s will.

Executor Definition: Fulfill specific duties

An executor of a will has numerous duties that they may be required to fulfill, dependant upon the complexity of the will and the property.  Some of the duties may include:

  • Making sure the will is filed in the appropriate probate court. Generally, law requires this even if the will does not need to go through probate.
  • Finding the deceased person’s assets. The executor will be responsible for keeping assets safe until they can be properly distributed to those named beneficiaries or creditors. This management may include deciding which assets to sell as well as what kinds of assets/property to keep.
  • Deciding if probating the last will and testament in court is necessary. Probating a will is the process of getting a court to approve the validity of the will. The decision of whether or not to probate a will depends on the state laws, in addition to the value any property that will pass via the will.
  • Finding and contacting the people that were named in a will who are supposed to inherit money or property.  Generally, the executor is in control of ensuring that the property that is named in the will goes to the correct people.
  • Setting up a bank account for the estate. An executor is normally required to keep the estate’s money separate from his or her own funds. Setting up a bank account in the name of the estate can make paying off debts easier.
  • Continuing necessary payments.  Funds from the estate’s bank account can be used for making insurance, mortgage, and other recurring payments that need to be paid during the administration of the will.
  • Paying off debts and creditors. Generally, before any person named in a will can receive an inheritance, the decedent’s debts and creditors must be repaid.  An executor of a will should notify all creditors of the death and see how they wish to proceed.
  • Paying final income taxes. Typically, an executor of a will is responsible for ensuring that the decedent’s income taxes for the last year he or she was alive are paid.
  • Wrapping up the deceased’s affairs. This can include anything from notifying a bank about the death to canceling credit cards that area still open.  Additionally, if the deceased was already collecting Social Security benefits, the Social Security Administration should be contacted.
  • Ensuring the property distribution of the deceased’s property. Property that is passed through a will should be given as it is recorded. But if there is additional property that is not named in the will, it should pass according to state law.

Keep in mind that if no will exists, the person is that is in control is typically known as the administrator and will be responsible for determining who any property will pass to in “intestate succession” under applicable state law.

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