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What Are the Duties of an Executor?

What Is a Will Executor?

An executor is the person you designate to carry out your wishes after your death, as per the provisions in your last will and testament. He or she handles your estate, pays off debts, and distributes property to your beneficiaries. Because of the personal nature of estate administration, and the need to understand and deal with family situations, your executor should be someone you trust. However, since he or she will also be dealing with a lot of legal and financial issues, your executor should also be skilled in financial and logistical matters and be able to handle the obligations of of an executor.

What Are the Duties of an Executor?

The primary duties of an executor include:

  • Gathering Assets: Once the executor has been appointed, his/her first substantial task is to collect and inventory the assets that are subject to probate. This includes reviewing records, determining which assets are subject to probate, taking physical custody of probate assets, valuing the property, and filing an inventory listing.

  • Payment of Debts and Expenses:Before making distributions to the beneficiaries, the executor must determine what debts and expenses should be paid. The executor is also responsible for resolving claims, paying executor and attorney fees, filing death tax returns, and filing other tax returns. To pay these various costs, the executor may have to liquidate assets.

  • Distribution of Assets:After the debts and expenses, including taxes, have been paid, the executor needs to make proper distribution of the remaining assets. This is done through distributions to beneficiaries and establishing trusts.


Can the Executor of a Will Also Be a Beneficiary?


Yes, in fact, it’s not that uncommon for the executor to also be a beneficiary. Most states do not have any laws that ban the practice.


What Are Some Advantages and Disadvantages to Having an Executor Beneficiary?


The primary benefits would be that the executor likely wouldn’t require payment from the estate, since they stand to inherit part of it. The obvious drawback is that the executor might not be impartial. No matter who you choose to name as the executor be sure it’s someone you trust.


Who Should I Not Name as an Executor?


One thing to consider is the residency of your executor. Many states do not allow for out-of-state executors to administer a will. In addition to state law, travel time and expenses can slow up proceedings. Finally, many states prohibit minors, convicted felons, and non-U.S. citizens from serving as an executor.


How Can I Help Ensure My Executor Follows My Wishes?


The best way is to pick a capable executor, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help. It’s helpful to leave written instructions, even if you have a capable executor. Spelling everything out in writing, even the small details, can help avoid any confusion. In addition, gathering all your relevant documents beforehand can be a good way to take any guesswork out of your estate. Be sure that everything is accounted for and that your executor knows where to find the information.


What Sort of Documents Should I Compile For My Executor?


  • Wills

  • Advance directives like durable powers of attorney or living wills

  • Records of ownership (deeds, bonds, titles, etc.)

  • Birth, marriage and death certificates

  • Contracts

  • Military papers

  • Personal legal documents (divorce settlements, prenuptial agreements, property settlements)

  • Insurance records

  • Passwords and other information about secured documents