Asked To Be An Executor? What To Expect

Posted on: 14 July 2020

Being asked to oversee the estate of an acquaintance or loved one should be considered an honor. The idea of being an executor can also seem intimidating to some. To get a better idea of what executors (or personal representatives) do, read below.

1. Are you up for it? You don't necessarily have to accept this role and you may not want to if you are already busy, ill, or just not up for it. The right thing to do is to respectfully turn down the offer so that the owner of the will can find someone else. If they have passed away, you can ask the probate court to appoint someone else.

2. Since executors primarily deal with estate assets, one of your first duties will be to perform an inventory of the estate. That means making a list of everything left behind by the deceased including a home, vehicles, jewelry, artwork, bank accounts, investments, and more.

3. Executors need to stay on top of paperwork so it's helpful to locate and gather the following important documents as soon as you can.

  • Last will and testament.

  • Trusts – revocable and non-revocable

  • Life insurance policies

  • Information about bank accounts, investment accounts, bank deposit boxes, etc.

  • Tax returns for the most recent year (and more if the deceased owes back taxes).

  • Pension, 401(k), and Social Security retirement information.

  • Deeds, bills of sale, vehicle titles.

4. Deal with final arrangements. While the executor is not the only one responsible for making the funeral and burial arrangements, they should ensure that funds are made available for that purpose. Check to see if the deceased made pre-arrangments with a funeral home. In some locations, life insurance policies are often used to help pay the final expenses.

5. Executors have certain powers but every move they make should be with the guidance of a probate or estate lawyer. It's illegal for executors to perform any financial transaction that would directly benefit themselves (unless the act is ordered and approved of by the probate court).

6. File the will in county probate court. The will should be read to all concerned parties and then the probate or estate lawyer will file it court. You can often locate wills in desk drawers, home safes, file cabinets, or the safe deposit box at the bank.

7. Pay the bills of the estate but only under the guidance of the attorney. Some bills never need to be paid and some are of prime importance. Work closely with an attorney on this matter.

8. Distribute the assets of the estate to beneficiaries. Once the probate court approves of the will and the process is complete, you should make the property of the beneficiaries available to them.

9. File the final tax return for the deceased.

10. Inform pension administrators and the Social Security Administration about the death.

Speak to an estate or probate attorney for more information on how to handle wills and trusts in your family.