Most people understand the importance of writing a will and choosing an executor to manage the estate. But do you know what the executor of an estate is responsible for? If someone chooses you to be their estate’s executor, this should be considered an honor. As the executor of an estate, you will be responsible for many different duties. If you have never been tasked with these responsibilities before, you likely have several questions about the job and what it entails.
What does an executor do?
How long does the role of an estate executor last for?
What should I expect during this process?
Is there anywhere to receive help with this role?
If you’ve found yourself pondering these questions or similar ones, rest assured you’ve come to the right place. As the executor of an estate, you have been placed in a very important role. The executor of an estate is responsible for settling the estate of the deceased and ensuring that their final wishes are followed.
What does an executor do?
Simply put, the executor is a role appointed by the writer of a will (also referred to as the testator). Your job as an executor is to execute the wishes of the deceased outlined in their will and settle the estate. Below we’ve outlined the various duties the executor of an estate is responsible for.
Gathering Important Documents and Information
One of the first things you should do after your loved one’s passing is to gather important documents. This includes locating and reviewing the deceased’s will, bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies and any other important documents or pieces of information.
Closing Accounts and Settling Debts
Following the passing of a loved one, you will be responsible for notifying various parties. This includes the deceased’s bank, credit card companies, government agencies and any groups that had ongoing business with the deceased like a cable or utilities provider. It’s best to notify these groups as soon as possible so that the estate will not be billed for services they cannot use anymore. If there are any outstanding debts, the estate will be responsible for settling these debts. You will also be responsible for filing a tax return for the deceased and if necessary, making sure the estate pays any estate taxes.
Maintain and Protect Assets
As a part of the deceased’s will, they will likely list the beneficiaries they would like to bequeath their assets to. As the executor of the estate, you will be responsible for maintaining and protecting these assets before they can be given to the beneficiaries listed. For instance, if the deceased’s will says to sell their home when they die, the executor is responsible for ensuring the home and property is maintained until a sale is closed.
Distribute Assets To Beneficiaries
As the executor, you are responsible for distributing assets to the beneficiaries listed in the deceased’s will. Sometimes this can lead to disagreements between surviving family members so it’s important that as the executor you try to maintain peace and harmony.
How Long Does The Role of Executor Last For?
Depending on the estate and the complexity of it, the exact time you serve as the executor can vary. In most cases, the entire process usually takes about one year to complete. To help expedite the process, it is imperative that you prioritize being organized, manage the tasks you are capable of handling and be responsive to any requests from organizations you are working with.
What Should I Expect During This Process?
No two situations are the same when it comes to settling an estate. With that being said, as the executor of an estate, it’s likely that you will experience some challenges along the way. In most cases, these are usually quite mild and can be handled without any issues.
If you have been chosen as the executor it’s likely that you were quite close to the deceased. This can make it difficult during the early stages of this role as you will be managing your own grief. While you have several duties to complete, make sure that you take some time to grieve. Understand that everybody grieves in their own way and that there is no set schedule or length of time when you are experiencing grief.
When it comes to distributing assets and following the deceased’s wishes, you may encounter some disputes. For instance, if the deceased leaves their cottage to only one of their children, this could cause some issues among the others. As the executor, you should do your best to limit any conflicts and try to maintain peace when settling disputes.
Expect to experience some delays during this process. For instance, probate courts or other groups might experience delays when settling the estate. In this case, there is not much you can do other than be patient and direct your attention to tasks you can complete in the meantime.
As mentioned earlier, being organized is crucial to the success of an executor. It’s common to feel like you are getting overwhelmed and begin to procrastinate. Unfortunately, this will not make your to-do list any smaller and can cause more work to pile up. Being organized and staying on top of things is the best way to avoid procrastinating and making sure you complete your duties in a timely manner.
Is There Anywhere To Receive Help With This Role?
If your concerned about taking on the responsibilities of an executor, rest assured you’re not in this alone. The funeral home will likely be able to offer advice or connect you with local resources that can assist you. In addition to this, there are several online resources available as well as local estate professionals like attorneys or financial advisors.
Remember that your loved one chose you to be the executor of their estate for a reason. They put their trust in you that you could handle the responsibilities and were the person best suited for the job. It’s important to understand that as the executor, your job is not to become an expert in estate settlement but instead use your skills and knowledge to manage the estate and make sure everything is handled accordingly.
If you have any questions about settling an estate or what the executor of an estate is responsible for, please feel free to leave a question in the comment section below.