An executor is the individual appointed in a decedent’s Last Will and confirmed by the Probate Court, and the person who is responsible to administer the estate and carry out the wishes of the decedent as expressed in the Last Will.
While the death of a loved one is an emotional time, there are many things that must be done – funeral arrangements, bills to pay, investments to manage, legal and tax affairs, and many more things. An executor’s duties vary from state to state – local laws and customs play an important role in an estate’s administration, and the estate’s attorney should determine the requirements that must be followed. The responsibilities listed below are not meant to serve as an all-inclusive list, and an executor should be acting with the advice of an attorney, accountant, and financial advisor – many items are actually performed by an attorney or accountant, but the executor is responsible for managing this process.
Responsibilities of an Executor (not in any particular order):
1. Locate the decedent’s Last Will, and submit it for probate and petition the court for appointment as the estate’s executor.
2. Ensure that funeral arrangements are carried out, if not already done by the family.
3. Obtain several copies of the death certificate.
4. Locate assets by reviewing income tax returns, investment statements, bank account statements, life insurance policies, etc. (obtain life insurance claim forms and submit claims).
5. Notify all heirs and family members of their interests in the estate.
6. Establish values for all assets as of the date of death either through published sources or appraisals.
7. Prepare an inventory of all of the estate assets and liabilities.
8. File the final federal and state income tax returns, and estate tax returns if necessary.
9. File the final accounting for the estate showing all of the assets and income collected, expenses paid, all investments and re-investments, all distributions made, and other pertinent information concerning the administration of the estate (this accounting will be provided to the beneficiaries and the court).
10. Make the final distribution of assets to the beneficiaries (assets should not be distributed too early if there are substantial claims by creditors against the estate).
The person you appoint as Executor of your estate assumes certain responsibilities upon your death. Also, you may be appointed as an executor when a parent, spouse, or best friend passes away. With these in mind, it’s important to understand your Executor’s duties to help you choose an appropriate person and understand your potential responsibilities.