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What does the executor of an estate do?

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2024 | Estate Planning

The executor of an estate is someone nominated by the deceased in their will (or appointed by the court when there is no will) to manage all of the responsibilities tied with probate. 

Once confirmed, this person becomes the legal representative of the deceased’s estate and assumes the weighty responsibility of managing the estate’s affairs until any questions are resolved, assets are distributed to the beneficiaries and probate is closed.

It’s a big job. If you’re unsure about whether you’re willing to take it on, it may help to understand more about what will be expected of you. Some common responsibilities include:

1. Initiating probate

The executor is responsible for initiating the probate process, which involves validating the will in court and establishing the executor’s legal authority to administer the estate.

2. Preserving assets

One of the primary duties of an executor is to take inventory of the deceased’s assets, including their bank accounts, real estate, investments and personal belongings. The executor must safeguard these assets until they can be distributed to the beneficiaries.

3. Settling debts

The executor is also responsible for identifying and paying off any outstanding debts the deceased left behind, such as mortgages, loans and utility bills. This may involve selling assets to cover the debts if there are insufficient liquid assets in the estate.

4. Filing taxes

Executors are expected to make sure all tax obligations of the deceased and the estate are complete. This usually includes filing final income tax returns for the deceased and estate tax returns, if applicable.

5. Distributing inheritances

Once all the debts, taxes and administrative expenses have been paid, the executor is responsible for distributing any remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the instructions laid out in the will (or according to the rules of intestate succession).

Throughout the process, the executor must also keep the beneficiaries informed about the progress, respond to any inquiries and attempt to resolve any disputes. Because this is such a big job, it’s not unusual for executors to rely heavily on experienced legal guidance to get the job done.