What Are the Responsibilities of an Executor of a Will?

The executor of a will is responsible for managing the deceased person’s assets until the debts have been paid and funds dispersed according to the terms of the will, according to Nolo. In most cases, the executor must see a probate judge before funds can be dispersed.

If the assets pass to a joint owner or the assets are below an amount set by state law, probate proceedings may not be necessary or may be streamlined, as Nolo explains. Additionally, probate is unnecessary if the assets were transferred to a living trust, according to Forbes.

The executor must examine the will and locate all the decedent’s assets. The executor may hire the attorney who drafted the will or another attorney to help with this process if necessary, according to Forbes. The funds from the estate are used to pay for burial expenses, and the executor then receives copies of the death certificate from the funeral home to use to close and settle accounts.

The executor must pay the decedent’s debts and taxes, as Forbes explains. The executor must also close the decedent’s accounts and notify agencies such as the Social Security Administration and banks of the death, according to Nolo. Ongoing bills, such as rental and utility payments, must be paid from the estate funds. Then, the executor oversees distribution of the remaining assets according to the terms of the will.

It is not required by law for the executor to be a financial or legal expert, but whoever is appointed must do the job with a high degree of impartiality, diligence and honesty, states Nolo. This is known as a fiduciary duty, and it means the executor must act in good faith on behalf of the deceased person. Anyone accepting the job of executor must be able to work well with people, especially the named beneficiaries, and have a great deal of time on his hands. Some executors even turn the entire job over to probate attorneys.