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What Does the Executor of an Estate Do?

Updated: May 7

Executors can go by many names, such as administrator, personal representative, or agents to name a few. They not only have many names, but they also wear many hats.

Being an executor of an estate is usually a very involved task that can last many months. With this preface, you must be wondering what does an executor do? That’s exactly what our expert estate planning attorney discusses below.

What is an Executor?

In simple terms, an executor is in charge of the assets in a will and paying expenses. They are a person or entity that is obligated to carry out the last wishes of a testator or manage their assets in their best interest.

What Does the Executor of an Estate Do?

The executor of an estate has many duties. In most cases, they carry a lot of burdens, so it’s important that the testator names someone who is responsible and capable of carrying out their last wishes.

Here are some of the most important tasks an executor has.

File the Will in Court

An executor is only responsible for filing a will when the person who creates it (the testator) dies. It should be the first thing the executor does because they only have ten days to file it after learning of the testator’s death.

This is usually done at the courthouse in the county in which the person died.

Manage Assets Until They Get Distributed to Beneficiaries

Managing assets of the testator is probably the most involved task an executor has. Depending on the finances of the testator, this can be a time-consuming process.

Pay Expenses

When a person dies, their expenses don’t magically go away. The assets left behind as part of the estate are used to pay for expenses until they have been transferred to their respective beneficiary.

Pay Debts

After filing the will in probate court, this should be the next task an executor should do.

Usually, no one is responsible for a person’s debts after they die, unless it’s shared debt. For example, a loan co-signer or joint accounts.

Pay Taxes

Another responsibility of an executor is that they have to file a tax return for the decedent. This is done almost the same way as if they were still alive.

This page from the IRS does a great job detailing everything you need to accurately file taxes for a deceased person.

Business Expenses

If someone dies with a business (as a sole proprietor), the executor is responsible to continue to fund it with the assets left behind. This is only until a beneficiary takes control of it, at which point all responsibility for it is on them.

Who Can Be an Executor?

Anyone who is of legal age and mentally able can be an executor. However, it doesn’t have to be an individual. It can also be a bank or law firm as long as the value of your estate can cover their fees.

Do Estate Executors Get Paid?

Whether it’s an individual or an entity, executors are entitled to compensation. Payment depends on your state and the value of the estate.

How is an Executor Designated?

The testator designates an executor of a will at the time of its creation. It is important to name someone you trust since they control the distribution of your estate.

Does an Executor Need to Hire a Lawyer?

If the executor is privy to estate law, or they are responsible for a small estate, it’s not necessary. However, seeking help from an estate planning attorney for asset distribution is always recommended.

Laws and procedures concerning distributing an estate are very particular. Obtaining legal advice can ensure all bases are covered and everything holds up in court.

Do You Need Legal Help as an Executor?

The average executor has no prior experience in this role, so if you need a little guidance, you’re not alone! For legal help regarding being an executor, you can reach us by sending us a message or calling our office.

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