What is the job of an executor in a will?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Part of writing a will means choosing an executor. The executor is legally responsible for distributing the assets in one’s will. However, the executor in a will has many other responsibilities as well.

Responsibilities of an Executor in a Will

Part of the responsibilities of being an executor in a will are administrative tasks like collecting the deceased’s mail, canceling credit cards and subscriptions, notifying any benefit plan administrators of the death, and inventorying any lock boxes, safes, and other personal property. However, other obligations are more complex and must be handled correctly or the beneficiaries to the estate may lose out. These types of responsibilities include giving the creditors notice of the death, releasing bank accounts, making sure final debts are paid, and hiring a probate attorney.

While no legal knowledge is needed to handle a simple will, a probate attorney can be a valuable resource to an executor in handling a will where there are property disputes or tax liabilities. Managing the assets of a will can sometimes take up to a year, but a probate attorney will make certain that the final taxes are paid on the property, the court supervised probate matters are handled properly, and ensure the property is transferred to all of the rightful beneficiaries.

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Choosing an Executor in a Will

If being an executor of a will seems like a big job, that’s because it is. When it comes time for you to choose an executor for your own will, you should pick someone responsible, organized, and trustworthy. The executor has a fiduciary duty. This means he is legally bound to complete the job with honor and diligence, so the qualities of an executor are important.

Common choices for executors are spouses, children, siblings, or dear friends. Since the probate process can drag on for months, it makes sense to pick someone that lives in the same state. However, this is not a requirement and should never be prioritized over someone you trust.

There are some limits on who you can choose as your executor. You may not name a minor or someone who has been convicted of a felony as your executor. Further, some states have limitations and additional requirements for an executor from another state such as requiring them to post a bond or requiring them to also be a beneficiary.

Getting Help

Check your state laws when choosing an executor. Finally, you should talk to the person you want to name as the executor in your will and make sure he or she is up for the job. You should also be sure to inform them of where your records and other important items are kept so that the process can be as smooth as possible. While writing a will and estate planning can be a stressful experience, ensuring that your assets are left in competent hands will help to ease the anxiety. 

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