An “Executor” or “personal representative” of a will is a person or entity designated in a will to carry out the instructions and wishes of the person who made the will (also known as the testator/testatrix). The role of the executor is an important one, as they are responsible for ensuring that the decedent’s assets are distributed according to the decedent’s wishes and that any debts or obligations are taken care of.
One of the first tasks of the executor is to locate the original will and any codicils (amendments) to the will. The executor will then need to determine the validity of the will and ensure that it is properly filed with the appropriate probate court.
Once the will has been deemed valid, the executor must begin the process of inventorying the decedent’s assets and determining their value. This includes identifying any bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate, personal property, and other assets that are owned by the decedent. The executor will also need to gather any necessary documentation, such as deeds, titles, and receipts, to establish the value of the assets.
After the assets have been identified and valued, the executor must pay any outstanding debts and expenses of the decedent’s estate. This may include expenses like credit card balances, medical bills, and funeral expenses.
Once debts and expenses have been paid, the executor can begin the process of distributing the assets according to the instructions in the will. This may involve selling assets, such as real estate or stocks, and distributing the proceeds to the beneficiaries named in the will. The executor may also need to transfer ownership of assets, such as transferring a car title or transferring ownership of a bank account to a beneficiary.
In some cases, the executor may be responsible for managing the assets of the estate until they can be distributed to the beneficiaries. This may involve making investment decisions or managing rental properties on behalf of the estate.
The executor is also responsible for keeping accurate records of all transactions related to the estate, including the inventory of assets, the payment of debts and expenses, and the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries. These records will be needed to file the necessary tax returns and to provide to the probate court as part of the probate process.
In addition to managing the assets of the estate, the executor may also be responsible for dealing with any disputes that may arise. This may include disputes among the beneficiaries or disputes with creditors. The executor has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and to ensure that the instructions of the will are carried out as closely as possible.
The role of the executor can be a complex and time-consuming one, and it is common for people to hire an attorney to assist with the process. An attorney can help the executor navigate the legal requirements of the role and can provide guidance on how to handle any issues that may arise.
To summarize, the executor of a will is responsible for carrying out the instructions and wishes of the person who made the will. This includes identifying and valuing the assets of the estate, paying any debts and expenses, and distributing the assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will. The executor may also be responsible for managing the assets of the estate and dealing with any disputes that may arise. It is a significant role that requires careful attention to detail and a willingness to take on a variety of tasks.