Simply put, the executor of an estate (or Will) is the person responsible for seeing that the wishes of the deceased are carried out. To ensure that your wishes are in fact, honored, you should choose someone who is dependable, responsible, and available to be your executor.
The responsibilities of the executor can vary depending on the wishes of the deceased, but some of the most common duties include:
- Locating and protecting the assets, determining “who gets what” and making sure the assets are properly distributed.
- Deciding whether probate court is needed.
- Locate the deceased’s Will.
- Create an organizational method to keep track of important documents such as a death certificate and application for a federal tax identification number (EIN).
- Open checking and savings accounts for the estate. These will be used to hold any money owned by the deceased.
- Find out if probate is necessary and oversee the process. Funds designated for certain purposes may not be subject to probate (i.e. IRA and 401(k) accounts, life insurance payouts, etc.)
- File the will with the local probate court.
- Notify any creditors, banks, lenders, or property managers of the death and close any accounts.
- Pay any debts and taxes owed.
Some of these tasks may seem overwhelming to the executor, especially in the midst of dealing with the death of a loved one. Seeking out the help of an estate planning attorney can help greatly in getting things done smoothly and promptly. The attorney who helped prepare the estate plan is probably the best person to contact for help. If you are writing your Will, be sure to include the attorney’s contact information so that when the time comes, your executor will have the least amount of work to do.