An executor of an estate is a person named in a will or trust of a deceased person that will administer and manage the will and ensure that the property is distributed in the way that the executor wanted. An executor of an estate can make sure that the testator's intent and interest is protected and carried out in accordance to the will's terms. An executor is usually a parent, relative, child, or even friend of the testator.

What Are an Executor's Responsibilities?

The executor is responsible for the complete administration of a deceased person's estate. An "estate" usually includes both assets and debts, and it is the executor's responsibility to pay off these debts, as well as distribute the remaining assets to those inheriting under the will or intestate.   

What Are the Powers Held by an Executor?

An executor has full power of title to all property in the decedent's estate, enabling him or her to manage all required transactions for administration. Once the administration is complete, the executor's powers are terminated. The executor is required to proceed in the settlement and distribution of the estate without court order; however, if there are any conflicts or questions, the executor can initiate a court proceeding to help resolve them.

Who Can Be an Executor?

Generally, a person drafting a will has complete freedom in selecting who will be their executor. Some states have, by statute, established certain requirements and prohibitions for executors. For example, certain states prohibit minors from serving as executors. But in most cases, unless there is clear indication of incompetence or threat to the estate, deference is given to the executor appointed in the will.

How Do I Select the Right Executor?

Depending on the liabilities and requirements of the estate, an executor's responsibilities can become quite complicated and time-consuming. In selecting an executor, trustworthiness, an awareness of the likely duties and a willingness to undertake them are important factors to consider. 

Selecting an appropriate and qualified executor can help ensure that your wishes are carried out, and prevent any additional difficulties or burdens on the part of  your heirs because of executor incompetence. While providing for the executor in the will is not a requirement, selecting one of the heirs as an executor is often considered an effective and expedient choice.

Does an Executor Get Paid?

Most executors who are appointed under a will carry out the responsibilities of the will out of respect and do not want to get paid for their services. However, the executor does have the right to payment. The exact amount that an executor is paid is determined by the laws of the state and is affected by factors such as the value of the testator's estate and what the probate court decides will be the reasonable amount of services.

Does An Executor Have to Serve?

No. If an executor is appointed by the testator in a will, an executor can either accept to serve and carry out the will's responsibilities or can decline this responsibility. Someone who agrees to become an executor can also resign at anytime. If the will has named an alternate executor, that person will take over. If the will have not named an alternative executor, the court will appoint someone to step in and serve as executor.

I Am an Heir - Can I Contest Who Was Appointed Executor?

Executor appointments can be contested by any heirs to the estate (people who stand to receive property from the deceased person). Interested parties can initiate court proceedings to disqualify executors for incompetence, inability or mismanagement, if necessary. If an executor is removed, the court will likely appoint a replacement executor if the deceased's will does not name an alternate executor. 

Do I Need an Attorney to Select an Executor?

While selecting an executor does not, in and of itself, require consultation with an attorney, when drafting a will and managing an estate of any size, it is always a wise thing to consult an experienced estate planning attorney who can explain all of your options and help you understand what types of wills or trusts are right for you and your family. Likewise, if you are appointed an executor or wish to contest the appointment of an executor, you will likely need the services of an attorney.