The short answer to this question is that the person who has named you as executor trusts you to see that the bequests made in the will are carried out. The more complicated answer is that the executor has many duties to the estate and can be liable if such things as the estate taxes are not paid. Some of the duties of the executor are
- Distributing assets according to the dictates of the will
- Paying debts of the estate and final debts of the deceased
- Maintaining assets of the estate such as a house until they are sold
- Notify beneficiaries of bequests
- Making court appearances as necessary for the estate
- Paying taxes on the estate
Do you have to serve as Executor just because you have been named by the decedent? No, you can decline the responsibility of being an executor. If you are drafting a will, it is wise to name an alternate if the person you name cannot act as executor or has to step down for some reason. If you do not name an alternate executor, the probate court will have to name an alternate executor.
In most cases, an executor of an estate does not accept payment for their duties but they do have the right to be paid. An executor is more likely to want or need payment in complicated estates that take more work. In these cases, an executor may have to hire a lawyer or other professionals such as accountants to handle taxes issues or an appraiser to help value the estate. The vast majority of wills are simple and routine; being the executor of a will is not necessarily a chore that you seek to avoid.