If you’ve dealt with a will or probate issue, you’ve probably heard many references to a person known as the “executor” of the decedent’s estate.

The executor of an estate is a person named in the decedent’s (the person who died) will, or other document, who is responsible for overseeing the decedent’s assets after they die. Being asked to serve as the executor of someone’s estate is both an honor and a burden. While it can be difficult and time-consuming, it also shows that the person who asked you to serve as the executor of their estate was willing to place a great deal of trust in you.

What Are the Estate Executor’s Duties?

The executor of the estate essentially steps into the shoes of its former owner (the decedent). They are responsible for representing the interests of the estate, meaning they have to deal with creditors (including, in some cases, defending the estate in a lawsuit), they are tasked with locating and managing (with the intent of preserving) all of the estate’s assets, and they have to track down all of the beneficiaries of the will. They also have to pay any lawful debts and taxes that the estate owes, out of the estate’s assets.

Also, if the will goes to probate (a process by which a court determines whether the will is valid or not), it is usually the executor who has to hire a probate attorney to represent the estate in the process.

How Are Estate Executors Compensated?

You might be wondering why someone would put themselves through all of this trouble, just because they were named the executor of an estate. Typically, the person who is named as the executor of an estate has a major incentive to see the process through: they are usually the person who has the most to gain from the decedent’s will or estate plan. They usually cannot collect their share of the estate until they have met all of their responsibilities as executor.

How Can a Probate Lawyer Help?

If you are named the executor of an estate, you might feel overwhelmed. If this is the case, the first thing you should do is speak with an estate lawyer. They will be able to advise you on how to best meet your responsibilities as an estate executor.