LEGAL GUIDE
Written by Avvo Staff |

Executor of will duties

What to know before agreeing to be executor of a will
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If a loved one has named you as executor of their will, you might have a lot of questions about what executor of will duties actually are. Your duties will include more than just making sure people named in the will get their inheritances: you’ll also wrap up all the final affairs of the estate. However, you have the right to refuse if you don’t feel up to the job, and you can resign after accepting.

Duties of an executor of a will

Find and file the will with the courts. If your loved one has told you they are naming you executor (which estate planning experts recommend), make sure you know where the original will is stored.

Figure out if probate is necessary and what kind. Probate may not be needed if all assets are in joint accounts or have named beneficiaries. Many states also have a simplified probate process for small estates.

Notify anyone who needs to know about the death. This includes people named in the will as well as creditors. It may also include banks, the Social Security Administration, Medicare, or other organizations.

Make a list of the estate’s assets and their values. You may need an appraiser’s help for some property.

Set up an estate bank account. You’ll need this to make payments on behalf of the estate.

Make recurring payments. You may need to keep paying things like mortgage and insurance until the estate has been closed out.

Pay outstanding debts. These include funeral and other final expenses, probate and administration fees, taxes, and other creditors. If debts exceed the value of the estate, you’re not liable for the unpaid debts.

Distribute remaining assets. Whatever is left after paying expenses and debts gets divided according to the will.

Close out the estate. You’ll need to file final paperwork with the court, which will close the estate.

While all this is happening, you’ll also need to protect the estate’s assets. This may include keeping a house in good repair or restricting access to a safe deposit box.

Lastly, make sure to keep accurate records of everything you do as executor.

Payment for being executor of a will

Most states allow reasonable payments for an executor’s services. "Reasonable" may vary by state and the size of the estate.

You can choose to refuse this payment, and family members acting as executor often do. If you do accept payment, it’s considered income you must report on your tax return for the year.

If you’re not sure how to handle the executor of will duties, it’s a good idea to talk with an accountant or an estate planning attorney. You can be held personally liable if you don’t follow the will or state law, or if your decisions cause a loss to the estate.

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