When you die leaving behind a will, your executor is the person you choose as the representative of your estate for purposes of probate. Depending on the size and complexity of your estate, your Executor’s job might be relatively simple, or it might get quite complicated.
Here’s an overview of the basic duties of an executor:
- File the appropriate documents with the court to open probate
- Notify the beneficiaries named in the will (and sometimes heirs not named in the will) that your estate is being probated
- Identify all your probate property, and secure it
- Identify all your debts
- Notify your creditors that your estate is being probated (certain creditors will be notified by mail; there will also be a legal notice published in the local newspaper)
- Ascertain the value of each of your assets, using professional appraisers if necessary
- Receive and review creditor’s claims and determine which claims are legitimate
- Pay legitimate claims against the estate, defend against illegitimate claims against the estate
- Pay any income, estate, or gift taxes that are due
- Once all taxes and legitimate claims are paid, distribute your remaining assets to your beneficiaries according to the terms of your will.
If your estate involves a large number of assets, a will contest, or other complications, your executor’s duties could be more difficult and involved. Regardless of the size or complexity of your estate, your executor would likely be well-advised to hire an attorney to assist with the Probate process – especially if this is his or her first time serving as executor. The requirements of state law and the procedural requirements of the Probate Court can be tough to navigate without help.