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:

  • paying valid creditors
  • paying taxes
  • notifying Social Security and other agents and companies of the death
  • canceling credit cards, magazine subscriptions, etc.
  • distributing assets according to the will
  • Make court appearances

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:

  • find the original will (this is often left with an attorney)
  • Find the deceased person's asset's and keep them safe
  • Decide if the will is the deceased last will
  • Set up a bank account for the estate to separate funds from own funds
  • Continue paying the necessary bills and payments that need to be paid on time
  • File the will with the proper probate court
  • Start distributing the deceased property according to the will's instructions
  • consider hiring an estate lawyer

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:

  • locate the will
  • obtain a lawyer
  • apply to appear before the probate court
  • notify beneficiaries
  • arrange for publication of notice to creditors
  • send death notices to appropriate parties
  • inventory assets and have them appraised
  • collect debts owed to the estate
  • check for unpaid salary and insurance benefits
  • file for Social Security and other benefits
  • file for life insurance and other benefits
  • file tax returns
  • pay claims against the estate
  • distribute assets to beneficiaries
  • file papers to finalize the estate

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 lawyer will make your job simpler and ensure that the job is done right.