Before you decide to take on the various duties involved with becoming an executor of another individual’s estate, you may want to know what exactly an executor does first.

An executor of an estate, or administrator, is the individual in charge of managing and distributing all of the properties included in a deceased or incapacitated individual’s estate. The term “estate” may refer to the individual’s real property, personal belongings, and other assets.

In addition to these tasks, the executor is also responsible for paying off any debts and taxes of the estate, notifying certain individuals and institutions about the person’s death, and in some instances, may even have to go to court to defend the estate against a lawsuit.

How Can I Become an Executor of an Estate?

In general, the most common way for a person to become the executor of an estate is by being selected by the individual who is creating the will (i.e., the testator). Normally, the testator will choose a person who is related to them, such as a parent, child, or other close relative of the testator.

Sometimes, the testator may even appoint a close friend as their executor, or another professional like a lawyer or an accountant.

Additionally, the testator may decide to appoint only one executor or can select multiple individuals to undertake the role.

While there are other requirements involved in becoming an executor, the two most important things that the individual must have is that they are of age, which means at least 18 years old, and that they have not been convicted of a felony.

What Steps Do I Need to Take to Formalize Becoming an Executor?

When the testator chooses someone to become the executor of an estate, the person chosen will need to go to court in order to formalize the process of becoming the designated executor. In general, to get officially appointed the individual will be required to complete the following process:

  • Obtain a copy of a form requesting to become executor;
  • Fill out the form and any necessary supplemental documents;
  • Get the form notarized by an authorized notary public;
  • Return the form and file it with the Clerk of the Court (this does require payment of a filing fee); and
  • Send the Notice of Application to any individual who has an interest in the estate, such as heirs or beneficiaries.

What Happens If an Individual Dies Without Naming an Executor?

When an individual becomes deceased without naming an executor, several different things might occur depending on the applicable laws in that jurisdiction as well as the certain facts involved in the situation, such as whether or not the individual has created a will.

In cases where a person has a will, but did not name an individual to become their executor, the court may appoint one. The court may choose an individual by reviewing the intestate succession laws of the relevant state.

It is important to note that every state has their own intestate succession laws, so the results of each case may vary depending on the laws of that state.

These laws dictate how to distribute the deceased individual’s estate and also provides a list of the relatives eligible to become the executor, in the event that the deceased did not name one or does not have a valid will.

Most state statutes list the deceased’s surviving spouse or partner as the first person to be appointed as the estate’s executor in such cases. After spouses or partners, adult children are the next ones in line who can be appointed by the court to serve as the executor.

Can I Become the Executor If I Am Not the Spouse or an Adult Child of the Deceased?

If a situation occurs where there are no spouses or adult children available to be appointed as the executor, then there is a possibility that the court will look to a close relative, friend, or professional of the deceased.

Again, this will be determined according to the priority list set out in the applicable laws of the particular state. The state may have a list that provides other instructions when such a scenario arises, including a longer list of people who are eligible to become the executor.

Will I Have to Make Payments to Ensure the Value of the Estate?

In some states, the proposed executor is required to post a surety bond. This type of bond insures the value of the testator’s estate against any mistakes that the executor might make when carrying out their duties, including not obeying their responsibilities at all.

What Happens If My Petition is Contested?

If a petition for executor is contested, then a hearing will typically be required so that both the petitioner and the challenger can present their cases.

These are often difficult matters and as such, a person attempting to fight a challenge against their executorship request should contact a probate attorney for further guidance.

Should I Speak to an Attorney Before I File for Executorship?

If you have been appointed as the executor of an estate and need to file an application to formalize your executorship, then you should strongly consider contacting a local estate lawyer for assistance.

Becoming an executor of an estate can be extremely complicated. Not only can the process for applying be confusing, but also the duties of an executor are a lot to handle. Hiring an experienced estate attorney will help to ensure that you do not violate any laws or forfeit your application in the process due to errors.

Additionally, a lawyer will be able to go over your rights, responsibilities, and other procedures involved with becoming an executor of an estate.