Expectations of the Executor

One of the most important decisions when making your Last Will & Testament is selecting an executor. Your executor is the personal and trusted assistant of your estate, as set up in your will. They are responsible for ensuring that all instructions and wishes in your will are carried out in full measure. This person must also work with the probate court so that all legal requirements are met. 

The Appointment of the Executor

The role of the executor is a mostly administrative position that requires a person who is both trustworthy and responsible. This person must guarantee that all of the wishes and instructions of the will are fully honored.

The testator, or creator of a will, selects an executor, but the probate court is who officially appoints the executor to their role. Your executor must meet specific legal requirements before being accepted by the court. 

An executor must be:

  • At least 18 years old

  • A resident of the state in which you file your will

  • Never convicted of a felony

The process begins after the testator passes away. The will and death certificate must be presented to the probate court within 30 days of death. This step is usually handled by the executor, but anyone can technically perform this duty. A request is then submitted to have an executor of the will officially appointed. 

There is no legal requirement to have an attorney oversee the executor, but the court may require the estate to hire legal counsel during probate.

If you do not specify an executor in your will, your loved ones can decide on one after you pass. However, if there is a disagreement over choosing an executor, the court can step in and make its own decision. 

Executor Responsibilities

  • Gather estate assets

  • Settle estate debts

  • Distribute estate to beneficiaries

The primary duty of the executor is to ensure that all wishes and decisions of the deceased are carried out according to the will. The executor’s other job is to work with the court so that the process flows smoothly and remains legal. 

Gathering Assets

Because the executor is in charge of distributing the estate, this person has the right to access sensitive financial information, including any financial accounts belonging to the estate.

Once the probate court appoints the executor to their role, this person must begin collecting all essential documents and data concerning the estate. This includes financial statements, insurance policies, property deeds, and titles. Once the estate is verified and the total work tabulated, the information is submitted to the court. 

Settling Debts

After the estate has been verified, the executor’s next responsibility is to settle any debts. Part of their job is to pay off outstanding balances and close accounts. The executor makes the proper notifications to the necessary organizations and government agencies, and may also need to send verifying documentation, such as a death certificate.

Distributing the Estate

Once all outstanding debts have been settled and all notifications made, the executor can begin distributing the estate to beneficiaries. This process may include writing checks, selling assets, and handling title and deed paperwork.

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