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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Executor of a Will

What is an Executor of a Will?

An executor of a will is someone who has the legal responsibility to take care of your financial obligations and carry on your other wishes after your death. The individual is often nominated in the last will and testament of the deceased and then must be approved by a judge.

An executor's responsibilities can vary, depending on the size and scope of the estate and the deceased person's wishes. Most executors are immediate family members, such as spouses, children, or parents.

What Does an Executor of a Will Do?

Executors often perform the following duties, using funds from the estate:

  • Make court appearances for the estate
  • Distribute assets according to the terms of the will
  • Maintain real estate until the estate is settled
  • Pay bills for the estate
  • Pay taxes on the estate \

Since these responsibilities can be complicated and time-consuming, it is essential to make sure an executor understands them before naming them in your will.

How to Choose an Executor of a Will

Since the executor is charged with carrying out your wishes after your death, it is important to select someone who is trustworthy and reliable. Here are five factors to consider in choosing your executor:

  1. Willingness: Make sure the individual is willing to take on this significant responsibility before naming them in your will.
  2. Organization: An executor should be someone you know to have an eye for detail and who has organizational skills.
  3. Location: The ideal candidate lives nearby, making it easier for them to make court appearances and handle the other duties surrounding your estate.
  4. Relationship status: This individual should be someone who has minimal bias and is respected by other family members.
  5. Age and health: Your executor should be someone in good health and of an age that makes them likely to survive you.

Checklist for an Executor of a Will

Here is a list of the typical executor’s duties:

  • Obtain copies of the death certificate. They will need copies of the death certificate to file tax returns and life insurance claims, access financial accounts, and notify the Social Security Administration of the death.
  • Make funeral arrangements. They will need to communicate with the family and the funeral home to carry out the deceased's wishes.
  • File the will in probate court. However, in some cases, assets can pass to heirs without going through probate, although most states still require the will to be filed in probate court.
  • Manage the distribution of assets. They will need to contact those named in the will about their inheritance and ensure they receive the designated asset. If there is no will, state law will determine who receives what assets from the estate.
  • Communicate with professionals. The executor may need to be in contact with any or all of these professional services: estate attorney, accountant, financial advisor, insurance agent, bank, credit card company, mortgage company, Medicare, Social Security Administration, and Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Establish an estate account. This account will hold financial assets such as property deeds, paychecks, dividend payments, and tax refunds. Burial expenses, ongoing bills, utility payments, and payments to the IRS and creditors will be paid with this account until the estate is settled.
  • File taxes. They will pay the deceased income taxes filed for the period from the first date of the tax year until the date of their death.

FAQs About an Executor of a Will

Here are some common questions many people have about the executor of a will.

How do you file for the executor of an estate without a will?

Someone still has to manage and close the estate if someone dies without a will or without naming an executor in their will. This person is typically called an administrator of the estate rather than an executor. Each state has its own way of determining who is named administrator. Usually, the court will ask for volunteers from family members and choose one of them.

Can the executor of will take everything?

No. An executor of a will acts as a fiduciary to the estate beneficiaries and is not necessarily a beneficiary. Serving as an executor does entitle someone to receive an executor fee.

Can an executor of a will be a beneficiary?

Yes. There are no restrictions on leaving assets to your executor. You can name an executor in your will just like you can with any other beneficiary.

What is the difference between serving as an executor and having power of attorney?

The main difference between these terms involves when the responsibilities take effect. Powers of attorney are granted during your lifetime and typically don't play any role after your death. However, they may come into effect if you're unable to make decisions on your own (due to a decline in health or an extended stay out of the country).

On the other hand, the role of the executor begins only after your death and involves managing and distributing your estate.

Helpful Resources:

SmartAsset - Does the Executor of a Will Have the Final Say?

FindLaw - Duties of an Executor of a Will

What is an Executor of a Will?

An executor of a will is someone who has the legal responsibility to take care of your financial obligations and carry on your other wishes after your death. The individual is often nominated in the last will and testament of the deceased and then must be approved by a judge.

An executor's responsibilities can vary, depending on the size and scope of the estate and the deceased person's wishes. Most executors are immediate family members, such as spouses, children, or parents.

What Does an Executor of a Will Do?

Executors often perform the following duties, using funds from the estate:

  • Make court appearances for the estate
  • Distribute assets according to the terms of the will
  • Maintain real estate until the estate is settled
  • Pay bills for the estate
  • Pay taxes on the estate \

Since these responsibilities can be complicated and time-consuming, it is essential to make sure an executor understands them before naming them in your will.

How to Choose an Executor of a Will

Since the executor is charged with carrying out your wishes after your death, it is important to select someone who is trustworthy and reliable. Here are five factors to consider in choosing your executor:

  1. Willingness: Make sure the individual is willing to take on this significant responsibility before naming them in your will.
  2. Organization: An executor should be someone you know to have an eye for detail and who has organizational skills.
  3. Location: The ideal candidate lives nearby, making it easier for them to make court appearances and handle the other duties surrounding your estate.
  4. Relationship status: This individual should be someone who has minimal bias and is respected by other family members.
  5. Age and health: Your executor should be someone in good health and of an age that makes them likely to survive you.

Checklist for an Executor of a Will

Here is a list of the typical executor’s duties:

  • Obtain copies of the death certificate. They will need copies of the death certificate to file tax returns and life insurance claims, access financial accounts, and notify the Social Security Administration of the death.
  • Make funeral arrangements. They will need to communicate with the family and the funeral home to carry out the deceased's wishes.
  • File the will in probate court. However, in some cases, assets can pass to heirs without going through probate, although most states still require the will to be filed in probate court.
  • Manage the distribution of assets. They will need to contact those named in the will about their inheritance and ensure they receive the designated asset. If there is no will, state law will determine who receives what assets from the estate.
  • Communicate with professionals. The executor may need to be in contact with any or all of these professional services: estate attorney, accountant, financial advisor, insurance agent, bank, credit card company, mortgage company, Medicare, Social Security Administration, and Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Establish an estate account. This account will hold financial assets such as property deeds, paychecks, dividend payments, and tax refunds. Burial expenses, ongoing bills, utility payments, and payments to the IRS and creditors will be paid with this account until the estate is settled.
  • File taxes. They will pay the deceased income taxes filed for the period from the first date of the tax year until the date of their death.

FAQs About an Executor of a Will

Here are some common questions many people have about the executor of a will.

How do you file for the executor of an estate without a will?

Someone still has to manage and close the estate if someone dies without a will or without naming an executor in their will. This person is typically called an administrator of the estate rather than an executor. Each state has its own way of determining who is named administrator. Usually, the court will ask for volunteers from family members and choose one of them.

Can the executor of will take everything?

No. An executor of a will acts as a fiduciary to the estate beneficiaries and is not necessarily a beneficiary. Serving as an executor does entitle someone to receive an executor fee.

Can an executor of a will be a beneficiary?

Yes. There are no restrictions on leaving assets to your executor. You can name an executor in your will just like you can with any other beneficiary.

What is the difference between serving as an executor and having power of attorney?

The main difference between these terms involves when the responsibilities take effect. Powers of attorney are granted during your lifetime and typically don't play any role after your death. However, they may come into effect if you're unable to make decisions on your own (due to a decline in health or an extended stay out of the country).

On the other hand, the role of the executor begins only after your death and involves managing and distributing your estate.

Helpful Resources:

SmartAsset - Does the Executor of a Will Have the Final Say?

FindLaw - Duties of an Executor of a Will