Being an Will Executor

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What Is an Executor?

An executor is someone who is named in the will, or appointed by the court to be responsible for settling the details of a deceased person's estate. There can be a single executor or one or more people charged with this job. An executor can be related to the deceased person, can be a friend or a lawyer, accountant, or other professional. The main requirement is that the person chosen as executor be at least 18 years old and have not been convicted of a felony. If you have been named the executor of someone's estate, you have been given a job of great responsibility.

The main responsibility of an Executor of Estate is to take care of everything from disposing of property instructed in the Will to paying the deceased debts and taxes.

What Does an Executor Do?

An executor's duties are largely administrative. They begin at the time of death and continue until the estate's assets have been distributed and taxes and bills have been paid. Duties of an executor include, but are not limited to:

Can an Executor Refuse to Serve?

The person named in the will to be the executor of estate can decline the responsibilities to serve as an executor. Also, if a person has already accepted the role as an executor of estate can also resign at any time. Usually a will has a person named as an alternative to serve as an executor. If the will fails to name an alternative person to serve as an executor, the court wll appoint a replacement executor.

What Is the First Step in Being an Executor?

Settling an estate begins with probating a will.  As executor you will need to:

Who Determines Whether the Will Is Valid?

The probate court is responsible for determining the validity of the will. The validity of a will is depends on what state law the will is being challenged. The four basic requirements to the formation of the will are:

  1. The will must be drafted by the testator with testamentary intent
  2. The testator must have had capacity when drafting the will
  3. The will must have been executed free from fraud, duress, undue influence, or mistake
  4. The will must have been duly executed through proper witnesses

What If Someone Wants to Challenge the Will?

If a person wishes to challenge the will, they must file a challenge with the probate court.

What Happens after the Will Is Determined to Be Valid?

Once the probate court declares that the will is valid, you as the executor can begin paying taxes and other claims against the estate. You can also at this point begin distributing assets to the beneficiaries. When this process has been completed, you must provide the probate court with evidence that the taxes and wills have been paid and the assets distributed. Only when the probate court recognizes that these duties have been fulfilled will the estate be considered settled.

What Else Will I Be Required to Do as Executor?

There are many duties involved in being an executor. Here is a checklist to ensure that you have completed or been made aware of those duties:

Do I Get Paid to Be an Executor?

An executor is not entitled to proceeds from the sale of property of the estate. The executor is usually entitled to a fee of compensation for administering the duties of the will. The fee may be specified in the will, or it may be determined by state regulations. The executor's fee may be waived if you wish to do so. If you, the executor, are an attorney, the law in most states prevents you from collecting both an executors fee and an attorneys fee for legal advice on the estate.

The amount an executor gets paid is set by the state and the probate court within the state will determine what the reasonable amount of compensation will be to serve as an executor. Most executors decline compensation since they are usually close family members and want to perform the duties out of respect for the deceased.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer If I Am Named as an Executor?

Being an executor of even a simple estate can be a complicated job. Consulting an experienced estate attorney will make your job simpler and ensure that the job is done right.

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Last Modified: 01-19-2015 11:51 AM PST

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