15 Primary Roles and Duties of an Executor - executor.org (2023)

Did you know that there are typically more than 100 tasks executors need to complete to settle an estate?

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15 Primary Roles and Duties of an Executor - executor.org (1)

Here are your 15 primary duties as executor:

1. Learn about the Role and Responsibilities of an Executor

Before you dive, head-first, into your executor duties, it makes sense to understand what your executor role will entail. An executor is a person named in a will to oversee the process of wrapping up the decedent’s estate and distributing the remaining assets according to the will.

(Video) Getting Started in the Executor Role - executor.org

Service as an executor typically lasts around a year from start to finish, but the time varies depending on the size and complexity of the estate. While as an executor, you must act in good faith, that does not mean you have to act alone. In fact, it is best to hire an estate attorney to help you with all the legal issues that must be handled. You may also need an accountant to manage required tax filings. The list goes on. It is good to keep in mind the cost of hiring these professionals is covered by the estate.

To help you along the way, we’ve come up with a list of the best online tools for executors.

2. If Possible, Interview the Will Maker

If a will-writer tells you that you are to serve as executor of that person’s will and that person is still living and able to speak with you about his/her wishes, you should talk with that person as soon as possible.

You should ask the will-writer where the will is kept so you can easily get to it when the time comes. Also get the will-writer to keep a list of financial assets with important details like account numbers and passwords. In addition to financial assets, items of personal or sentimental value should be recorded along with the story behind them. Professionals with whom the will-writer does business should be written down along with contact information and a brief description of what they do. With an executor.org plan, we’ll walk you through the questions you’ll want to ask the will maker.

While not directly related to the will, it may be beneficial to talk with the will-writer about funeral plans and powers of attorney for health care during life. Further, knowing someone’s wishes regarding organ donation can be important to ensure his/her wishes are followed, even if those wishes are not written down in a will.

3. Obtain and Review the Latest Will and Trusts

When a person dies and you know you are the executor of will, one of your first duties is to get the original version of the latest will as well as any trust documents the will-writer had. This is a good time to ask for the help of a lawyer, who can be beneficial in determining the validity of the will and how to proceed with filing it with the probate court. A lawyer can also be helpful if no will was written or the will cannot be found.

A will often contains information not only listing the names of the beneficiaries but also including contact information for those beneficiaries. Make a copy of the will and use it to create a contact list for beneficiaries, checking to see if the contact information in the will is accurate. These beneficiaries should have access to a copy of the will as well.

Since, as executor, you will be responsible for seeing that the wishes in the will are followed, you should communicate an action plan to the beneficiaries. Throughout the process, it is important to continue to keep the lines of communication open between you and the beneficiaries.

(Video) What are the fifteen tasks that an Executor handles? Finale.

4. Hire the Relevant Professional Team to Support You

It is unwise to approach the role of executor and its duties as something you have to do on your own. There are a lot of complicated steps involved from valuing assets and selling real estate to navigating the legal filings and paying the appropriate taxes.

Chances are if you are named as the estate executor, you were close with the deceased. It is not uncommon to still be in the grieving process during your service in this role. Therefore you may consider talking with a grief counselor or attending grief support group meetings during your service.

5. Plan and Manage the Funeral

Though the details of a funeral are not the responsibility of an executor, an executor is often seen as a person trusted by the deceased and may be consulted during the process of funeral planning.

Since you are the executor, you need to keep in mind that every expense incurred comes out of the estate and affects the amount going to the beneficiaries. You do not have to be a penny pincher, but you should not spend freely without regard either.

The process of planning a funeral involves many steps from selecting a funeral home itself to determining the details of burial/cremation and the service. This can be overwhelming for those closest to the deceased, so be prepared for them to turn to you for guidance and support.

6. Create a Detailed Record-Keeping System

There is a lot to keep up with during your service as executor. That is why it is important to keep everything organized and to take notes throughout everything you do. Depending on the will and your decisions, you may need to keep track of the amount of time you spend working on the estate. You should also keep track of the estate’s financial concerns and any expenses incurred as a part of your role as executor.

7. File the Will with the Probate Court and Obtain the Death Certificate

The process of getting a death certificate is generally quick if you have the right documentation. While name and date of birth might be easy items you think of as necessary, obtaining a death certificate may also require things like a social security card or number. When you get a death certificate, you should get several certified copies as well. You will have to use these throughout your service as executor.

Shortly after the funeral, you should fill a will with the probate court. You should get an attorney to help you with this. The attorney can also help you understand any mandated court appearance requirements and further court imposed duties and deadlines.

(Video) The Powers, Role and Duties of Executors in Irish Law

8. Notify Necessary Organizations of the Death

One of the responsibilities of an executor to give the proper notice to organizations and individuals. This is not a task the executor has to embark on alone, though. An attorney can be helpful in giving proper notice, especially when creditors or business ventures are involved.

There are many reasons to notify people and organizations of the death. It can stop benefit distribution so you don’t have to pay it back later. It can start the process for life insurance payments and other death benefits. It can even put you on alert for fraud, for example notification of credit card companies allows final bills to come without worrying if someone would fraudulently use the card number after the decedent’s death.

9. Find, Value, and Protect Assets

With the help of the applicable professionals, assets should be documented along with their value. While it may seem self-explanatory to determine the value of bank accounts and other financial holdings, all personal and real property should be accounted for.

Remember to stay organized and record everything you do. This is also a good time to remember to communicate with the beneficiaries to let them know what you are doing.

10. Manage the Estate, Eliminating Unnecessary Costs

The tasks involved in managing an estate after a person’s death are very similar to the tasks a person takes on during life. This can include creating a bank account in the estate’s name, paying bills and maintaining a home or other property.

An important part of protecting assets involves making sure money in the estate is not being wasted. Unnecessary services such as television and internet, dues-paying memberships, magazine subscriptions, etc need to be cancelled in a timely fashion in order to keep as much money in the estate for the beneficiaries as possible.

11. Determine and Pay Debts of the Estate, Including Taxes

Consulting with the appropriate professionals when necessary to determine the legitimacy of a bill or debt, an executor is responsible for paying bills and debts owed by the decedent out of funds found in the estate. An executor is also responsible for seeing that income and estate tax returns are prepared and filed by the appropriate professional.

12. Create a Plan for Distribution or Sale of Personal Property

This is a task you should not embark on by yourself. Personal property ranges from simple items like clothes and shoes to large or valuable items such as jewelry and cars. You should get a professional to value the assets so when the beneficiaries express an interest in particular ones, you can distribute as fairly as possible.

(Video) Estate Executors Responsibilities and Roles

You should spend some time thinking through how personal property will be divided and communicate the process in advance to the beneficiaries. There will be personal property that none of the beneficiaries want, so you will have to oversee the sale or donation of the items.

13. Sell the Real Estate

Often, real estate is the most valuable part of a decedent’s estate. This makes it all the more important that you consult with professionals during the sale process. You should communicate with the beneficiaries as well because the sale of a home may affect how quickly or slowly the personal property inside can be distributed.

14. Distribute Estate According to Will and Close the Estate

When assets are valued, interests of beneficiaries in personal property are determined, and debts are paid, you should next distribute the estate’s assets according to the will. To do so, you should calculate the value of the estate and the value of each beneficiary’s share. Assets can then be distributed. Once this is done, work with the estate’s attorney to wrap up the probate process with the court.

15. Plan your Own Estate

You’ve learned a lot while serving as an executor. You’ve made valuable connections with professionals. You’ve seen what sorts of things you might want to incorporate for yourself and things you would want to avoid. It’s now time to put that knowledge to good use and plan your own estate.

Where to Go from Here?

Let executor.org assist you through each step of the executor role. It’s free and can help a lot. We can help you understand the responsibilities and duties of the executor role at each step along the way. We can help you track your progress, and you can utilize our spreadsheets to keep track of important financial details. We offer the best tools available to help you in your executor duties.

Since you can save your work on Executor.org, you can start today and just do a little at a time, as you are able to do so. Think of it as an executor checklist — but a whole lot more helpful! Click here to get started.

15 Primary Roles and Duties of an Executor - executor.org (2) Patrick O’Brien is CEO and co-founder of Executor.org, an online resourcethat helps executors manage their responsibilities and duties in this complex role. The tool includes a helpful step-by-step interactive guide for executors and invaluable tips on everything from planning a funeral and keeping beneficiaries happy to dealing with grief and managing estate assets.

(Video) It’s Your Money: Duties of an Executor


What is the role of the executer? ›

An executor is legally responsible for sorting out the finances of the person who died, generally making sure debts and taxes are paid and what remains is properly distributed to the heirs.

What are the fiduciary duties of an executor? ›

An executor has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. They can face legal liability if they fail to meet this duty, such as when they act in their own interests or allow the assets in the estate to decay.

What qualities should an executor have? ›

These seven characteristics will help you identify what is important when selecting an executor.
  • 7 Qualities of a Good Executor.
  • Ethical and Dependable. Who is a good person to be an executor? ...
  • Organized. ...
  • Financially Savvy. ...
  • Fair and Impartial. ...
  • Strong-willed. ...
  • Available. ...
  • Compassionate.
Dec 14, 2020

What are the duties of an executor of a will in California? ›

Once appointed, the Executor “runs” the estate much as a business person runs a business. The Executor makes sure all debts are paid, all taxes paid, all assets cared for, then distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with law and the Will.

How many tasks does an executor have? ›

Number of tasks execution in parallel

Each executor is assigned 10 CPU cores. 5 executors and 10 CPU cores per executor = 50 CPU cores available in total. With the above setup, Spark can execute a maximum of 50 tasks in parallel at any given time.

What is the exact job of an executor of a will? ›

If there is a will and an executor has been appointed, then the executor deals with the estate. This means that they make sure that the spouse/civil partner is aware of the right to a legal right share and distributes the estate in accordance with the will and the law.

What can an executor do and not do? ›

The primary duty of executors is to the beneficiaries by carrying out the wishes of the deceased as set out in their will. Executors can act together or alone, but an executor cannot go against the terms of the will, breach their fiduciary duty, fail to act, self-deal, embezzle or harm the estate through neglect.

What is considered a breach of fiduciary duty? ›

What Is Breach of Fiduciary Duty? Breach of fiduciary duty occurs when someone has a responsibility to act in the interests of another person and fails to do so.

Does an executor have to show accounting to beneficiaries? ›

The short answer is yes, you have to show an accounting unless the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate waive the requirement. And even if they waive it, probate best practice is to show a thorough summary of what was done so you reduce the chance of disputes later on.

Who is the best person to be an executor? ›

“They appreciate the fact that their loved one may need professional support, particularly right after a death." Having a professional such as a lawyer or an accountant or a corporate trustee work together with a family member can be optimal, says Guerriero.

How much does an executor get paid? ›

Under normal circumstances, executor fees in Texas are set at five percent of the amount paid out of the estate but may not exceed more than five percent of the total fair market value of the estate.

How do I make sure an executor is honest? ›

An Executor who finds that the beneficiaries are suspicious of him, despite no wrongdoing, is free to voluntarily file a formal accounting to prove that the books are in order and the proposed distributions are correct. Either way, a formal accounting is a unique, self-contained action in the chancery court.

How much should an executor of an estate be paid in California? ›

Understanding executor pay in California

According to the California Probate Code section 10800, the executor receives a percentage of the estate. For example, the executor is entitled to 4% of the first $100,000 of the estate, then 3% of the next $100,000, and 2% of the next $800,000.

What are the responsibilities of an executor of a will to the beneficiaries? ›

As an executor, you are responsible for making sure all assets are accounted for, all debts are paid and all beneficiaries receive their inheritance as outlined in the Will.

How long does an executor have to distribute assets in California? ›

California law says the personal representative must complete probate within one year from the date of appointment, unless s/he files a federal estate tax. In this case, the personal representative can have 18 months to complete probate.

What is an executor Spark? ›

An executor is a process that is launched for a Spark application on a worker node. Each executor memory is the sum of yarn overhead memory and JVM Heap memory. JVM Heap memory comprises of: RDD Cache Memory.

How many copies of a death certificate does an executor need? ›

You'll usually need one certified copy (not a photocopy) for each insurance, bank or pension company you're dealing with. You may also need to give copies to the executor or administrator who is dealing with the property of the person who's died.

Does an executor get everything? ›

Can the executor of a will take everything? The simple answer is no. The executor has the authority to hold the assets for a certain time for safe-keeping before distributing it. But he cannot withhold assets for any selfish benefit.

Can an executor claim expenses? ›

The role can be onerous and time-consuming as well as involve numerous expenses. Dealing with the administration of an estate can be complex. An executor cannot claim for the time they have incurred; however they are entitled to be reimbursed for the reasonable costs of the administration.

How long does the executor have to pay the beneficiaries? ›

Wait Six Months (or sometimes longer)

By law the Executor has to hold onto estate assets for six months from the date Probate is granted, and cannot pay out any money to the beneficiaries before this time is up.

Can an executor receive money from a will? ›

In short, yes, an executor can be a beneficiary of a will, in fact, it's quite normal for that to be the case. The only people who cannot be beneficiaries under a will are those who witnessed the will when the deceased signed it.

Can executor give advance money to beneficiaries? ›

In many cases of estate administration, the executor or administrator or preliminary appointee may voluntarily make an advance distribution to a person who is in need.

What action can be taken against an executor? ›

If you believe the executor is distributing assets incorrectly or failing in their other duties, you may be able to make a claim against them. You can also apply to the court to have an executor removed from their role.

Can an executor stop a beneficiary? ›

An executor cannot change beneficiaries' inheritances or withhold their inheritances unless the will has expressly granted them the authority to do so. The executor also cannot stray from the terms of the will or their fiduciary duty.

What are the 5 fiduciary duties? ›

Specifically, fiduciary duties may include the duties of care, confidentiality, loyalty, obedience, and accounting. 5.

What can a fiduciary not do? ›

As stated above, a fiduciary's actions must be free of any conflicts of interest and self-dealing; and, as a fiduciary, one cannot use the relationship with the beneficiary to their own personal advantage.

What are the 4 types of breaching? ›

SWAT cops usually have four types of breaching options at their disposal: mechanical, ballistic, thermal and explosive.

Does a beneficiary have right to see financial statements? ›

No, generally, beneficiaries cannot demand to see the decedent's bank statements unless they are also a personal representative of the estate. However, it is within the executor's discretion to share bank statements with beneficiaries upon request.

Can beneficiaries ask to see estate accounts? ›

Residuary beneficiaries are additionally entitled to receive a copy of the estate accounts, once these have been prepared, so that they can see how their share of the inheritance has been calculated.

Can an executor access the deceased bank account? ›

Accessing money, property and other assets. If the deceased person left a lot of money or property in his or her estate, the executor or the administrator may have to apply for a grant of representation to gain access to the money. An application for a grant is made to the Probate Registry.

Is being an executor stressful? ›

Being an estate executor is a difficult, time-consuming job that is typically an unfamiliar one as well. It's easy to get stressed and feel like you'll never get it all done.

What power has an executor? ›

An executor is a person named in the will, whose legal responsibility is to carry out the provisions of the will. An executor of a will has the duty to carry out the wishes of the deceased, including locating the original will, sorting out finances and applying for probate.

Who appoints an executor? ›

The executor is the person who is appointed by the Master to administer the deceased estate. The deceased nominates an executor in his or her will and the Master appoints such executor subject to certain requirements.

Should I take executor fee? ›

An executor doesn't have to accept compensation, and some choose to waive their right to it. If the executor is also a primary beneficiary in the will, it often makes no sense to take compensation, as the compensation is taxable while a will bequest is usually tax-free.

How does an executor pay for a funeral? ›

So, the Executors don't pay? No, the Executors are not responsible for paying for the deceased's funeral. If they like, they can pay for the funeral using their own money and recover the costs later from the estate. Or, they can ask for monies to be released from the deceased's bank accounts.

How do you keep track of estate expenses? ›

Tips that will Help You Avoid Costly Mistakes when you Document Estate Expenses in Accountings:
  1. Document the date that the expense was paid by the estate's executor.
  2. Enter the check number used to pay the expense.
  3. List the payee receiving the payment for an expense of the estate.
  4. State the purpose for such payment.

Who keeps the original copy of a will? ›

Most estate planning attorneys take on the responsibility of holding their clients' original wills and other documents. They do this for two reasons. First, they are often better equipped to keep the originals safe where they can be found when needed.

Do all heirs have to agree to sell property? ›

If only one person is heir to the house, other heirs of the estate generally can't force the sale of the home. If multiple siblings inherit the property jointly, they each have a say in what happens to it.

What questions should I ask as an executor? ›

6 Questions to Ask if You're the Executor
  • Where are the estate planning documents? ...
  • What are the assets and liabilities? ...
  • What and where are the digital assets? ...
  • Who are the testator's trusted professionals? ...
  • What are your loved one's wishes for their memorial? ...
  • Has the testator informed family and friends of their wishes?
May 24, 2021

How does an executor value an estate? ›

Valuing parts of the estate for probate

Assets need to be valued at their open market value. This is the price the asset might reasonably fetch if it was sold on the open market at the time of the death. This represents the realistic selling price of an asset, not an insurance value or replacement value.

How much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate in CA? ›

Is there a California probate minimum? Yes. For an estate to require a formal probate, it should generally be worth more than $184,500, which is the minimum value required as of April 1, 2022.

Does the executor pay the beneficiaries? ›

The executor is responsible for paying out to all beneficiaries and must follow the instructions in the will.

What are the fiduciary responsibilities of an executor? ›

An executor has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries. They can face legal liability if they fail to meet this duty, such as when they act in their own interests or allow the assets in the estate to decay.

Do executors have a duty of care? ›

Executors and Statutory Duty of Care

All executors have a statutory duty of care to carry out the administration of an estate with care and skill – which broadly means that the executor must act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and avoid loss or injury to the estate.

How much can you inherit from your parents without paying taxes? ›

The federal estate tax exemption shields $12.06 million from tax as of 2022 (rising to $12.92 million in 2023). 2 There's no income tax on inheritances.

Can an executor sell belongings before probate? ›

The short answer is that the deceased's home can't be sold before a grant has been obtained. Although executors derive their authority from the will, they can only prove their rights by taking a grant of probate.

How powerful is the executor? ›

While the executor has the power to manage and direct estate funds, they are bound by their fiduciary duty to distribute the money according to the will to the estate beneficiaries. Even when the executor is also a beneficiary, they cannot simply take money from an estate bank account.

Who is an executor accountable to? ›

An executor is the person named in a Will to carry out the directions contained in the Will. The executor is responsible for settling the person's affairs after death and is accountable to the beneficiaries and those entitled to benefit from an estate.

What is the meaning of the word executer? ›

: one who executes something. obsolete : executioner. : the person appointed by a testator to execute a will.

Does an executor have to accept the role? ›

The short answer is no. If named in a Will to act as an Executor, the named party can renounce their appointment thus leaving the duties to the next named party (i.e.: the alternate).

Who has the most power in a will? ›

The executor of a will is in charge of making sure the wishes of the deceased are carried out, as well as handling the final affairs of the estate.

What do you call a female executor? ›

An executor (male) or executrix (female) is the individual responsible for managing the affairs of a deceased person's probate estate. The same as the personal representative, the preferred term to use.

What is the new term for executor? ›

Personal representative: Another name for the executor or administrator of an estate. Some states use this term (often abbreviated "PR") instead of executor; some states use either.

What is a exploiter person? ›

The Exploiter uses something for a wrongful purpose to dishonestly gain personal benefits. This might involve misusing their position or privileges, or dishonestly exploiting a vulnerability for personal gain. Examples: An individual steals money or assets placed in their trust.

On what grounds can an executor be removed? ›

In general, the courts will only remove an executor if the beneficiaries can show the following:
  • the executor has become disqualified since the deceased appointed him.
  • the executor is incapable of performing his duties.
  • the executor is unsuitable for the position.


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