Responsibilities of the Executor of a Will

Following the death of a loved one, there may be fear and uncertainty about what to expect. However, there are still needs to be attended to on behalf of the deceased.

Responsibilities of the Executor of a Will

Following the death of a loved one, there may be fear and uncertainty about what to expect. However, there are still needs to be attended to on behalf of the deceased.

Specifically, there will need to be an individual appointed to carry out important responsibilities for the decedent’s estate. This role, an executor of a will, is in charge of doing these tasks.

It is important to note that if you are named as executor of a will, you are not legally required to carry out any tasks. Since an executor will be liable for potential mismanagement of an estate, this position may not be suitable for everyone. If desired, you can name another individual as executor of the will (pending court approval).

The following are some of the main responsibilities that come with being the executor of a will.

Obtain Death Certificate and Latest Version of Will

One of the first steps, which can be easily overlooked, is to obtain a death certificate. Also, make sure you have the most updated version of the will and that you understand it completely. Finding and familiarizing yourself with all appropriate documentation will save you time and energy as executor.

Submit to Probate Court

The majority of wills must be filed to probate court. Probate is used to determine the validity of the will and to officially appoint the executor. The process and cost varies by state as well as the complexity of the will. The will must be filed for probate in the state in which the decedent was domiciled (where the decedent had permanent residence, paid taxes, etc.).

Sort Out Finances

The executor must sort out final finances for the decedent. First, any costs as a result of the deceased, such as funeral and burial charges, will be funded from the estate. Second, be sure to pay off any existing debt or balances due for the decedent. Also, pay any applicable state and federal taxes due on the estate.

Alert Appropriate Agencies

You must alert all appropriate agencies, including governmental bodies, about the death. Stopping all mail to the decedent, closing credit cards and other similar tasks will be necessary. You will need a death certificate and proof of executorship to have legal authority over the decedent’s affairs.

Represent the Estate

As executor of the will, you are legally in charge of the decedent’s affairs. However, it may be wise to hire an attorney to seek council on decisions and/or procedures you may be unfamiliar with. This will ensure that you are adequately prepared for any of the duties you are required to perform as executor.

Be Fair and Impartial

Family members and other heirs may have conflicting wishes regarding asset distributions and other matters pertaining to the will.  While it may sound easy in theory, being fair and impartial when it comes to handling the affairs of the estate is extremely important, as keeping the best interests of all parties in mind is necessary both legally and also to maintain personal relationships.  Some estate disputes may not be resolved for years and could ultimately result in hefty legal fees and damaged relationships. Because of this, it is in everyone’s best interest if the estate is handled in a way that limits, and quickly resolves, conflict.

Take Inventory of All Assets

As executor, it is your responsibility to take inventory of all of the assets of the estate. While this includes large assets, such as houses and automobiles, it also includes household items, bank accounts and lockboxes. Consider hiring an appraiser if the estate is large, as this could significantly impact taxation and cost basis values.


Given the stress, time and energy that comes with being the executor of a will, it is typically permissible to collect compensation for your work. Keep in mind that your compensation may vary based on the size of the estate, is subject to court approval and must be claimed as income.

While the responsibilities of an executor of a will might be stressful, it is an honor to represent an estate on behalf of a decedent and to provide stability and strength in a time of grief and uncertainty. As executor, be careful not to rush, skim over or skip any steps, as there could be legal repercussions for any mismanagement of the estate.

Fingerlakes Wealth Management, Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser. This article is solely for informational purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Fingerlakes Wealth Management, Inc. and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Fingerlakes Wealth Management, Inc. unless a client service agreement is in place.

This article was written by Advicent Solutions, an entity unrelated to Fingerlakes Wealth Management. The information contained in this article is not intended to be tax, investment, or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any tax penalties. Fingerlakes Wealth Management does not provide tax or legal advice. You are encouraged to consult with your tax advisor or attorney regarding specific tax issues. © 2016 Advicent Solutions. All rights reserved.

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