Duty Bound: The Duties Of The Executor

Posted on: 23 May 2016

Being appointed executor (also known as personal representative in some states) is both a high honor and a heavy responsibility. Only the most trusted of family members or friends are appointed to this duty, and the duties consist mainly of carrying out the wishes of the deceased and ensuring that the will is probated. You must be prepared to act on the behalf of the deceased, and you must do so in a discreet and fair manner. Knowing what to expect can go a long way toward easing any confusion or anxiety, so read on for a short and useful guide on the duties of the executor.

This job may not be for you.

Before you accept this responsibility, you may want to take into consideration how challenging and time-consuming it could turn out to be. Not everyone can make this commitment, regardless of the honor. Allowing the testator (the person who is making the will) an opportunity to find someone else with more time and energy to devote to the job can save both you and the beneficiaries a great deal of problems later on. It's important to point out that if you mismanage the estate, you could be held personally liable and face a lawsuit, so think carefully before accepting this duty.

Gather the important documents.

In most cases, locating several important documents will be one of your first responsibilities after the testator dies. These documents may be needed to plan and pay for the burial, so quick action is needed. You may need the following:

  • The Will: Common locations for the will include lock boxes in the home and safety deposit boxes at the bank. If you encounter difficulty locating this document, you can ask the attorney. It should be noted that often the testator will present you with a copy of the will upon naming you the executor.
  • Life and Burial Insurance Policies: One of the primary responsibilities of the executor is to ensure that there are funds available for the burial, and the source of these funds is usually these insurance policies.
  • Bank Account Information (savings and checking).
  • Investment Account Information
  • Reals Estate Deeds
  • Vehicle Titles
  • Tax Returns
  • Bills and Loan Paperwork
  • Information about any safety deposit boxes.
  • Death Certificates: These are usually available a few weeks after the death, and you should ensure that you have enough certified copies on hand to give to financial institutions, the Social Security Administration, insurance companies and more.

Notify the necessary people.

Try to make notifying the Social Security Administration a top priority, since any funds deposited into the deceased's account after death will be subject to repayment. Additionally, let creditors, health insurance companies, Medicare and loan companies know about the death.

File the will with probate court.

Probate can take several months, so meet with the estate attorney and ensure that the will gets filed as soon as possible. The attorney will likely alert potential creditors about the death by placing a notice in a local newspaper or by letter.

Take care of bills and taxes.

In most cases, the executor will be responsible for filing and paying any federal income or property taxes. Make sure to work closely with the estate lawyer concerning the other bills, since some should be paid as soon as possible and others should wait until later.

Distribute the estate.

Once all creditors have been satisfied and the estate is released from probate, you can disburse the contents according to the deceased's wishes.

You can count on the estate attorney to stand by you every step of the way during this difficult but important process, so don't be overwhelmed. Make sure that your duties as executor stand as a lasting tribute to the memory of the deceased.

Talk to someone like Jolein A. Harro, P.C. for more information on the estate planning and executing process.