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Top 5 Duties of an Estate Executor: And How to Carry Them Out

The main responsibility of an executor of a will is to carry out a person’s final wishes. There are a number of duties you must execute to fulfill this responsibility. Usually, the executor is a close family member, but the executor could be a qualified, compensated person duly appointed under the laws of the state. Here are 5 duties of an executor and how to carry them out.


The Top Duties of an Executor/Executrix:

  1. Gathering the documents necessary for distributing the estate
  2. Paying the debts and taxes, and collecting from the estate’s debtors
  3. Closing out the deceased’s insurance, retirement, and Social Security accounts
  4. Maintaining the willed property prior to its sale
  5. Choosing the type of will probate and filing the will accordingly

Depending on the size of the estate or complications in probating the will, the duties of the Executor can include much more. The Executor may require qualified legal assistance to navigate the complexities of probate and tax laws.

Under ordinary circumstances, however, an executor can carry out the above general duties by taking the following actions:

1. Gathering the Necessary Documents

Secure copies of the deceased’s will. This is the document that will name you the executor and grant you the authority to administer the estate. If required, obtain a court document that confirms the will is legal and valid. You will also need to request a copy of the death certificate. The death certificate is needed to file most of the forms and paperwork that you will be handling. As the executor you will be able to obtain a copy from either the state or county.

You should also gather any deeds, trusts, insurance papers, etc. Keep in mind it’s important to stay organized. If the deceased didn’t have all their document’s in order it could take time to track everything down.

2. Close out the Deceased’s Financial Accounts

Contact the deceased’s banks, credit card account holders, and lenders. Gather information on mortgages, leases, and taxes. Settle any tax liens with the IRS or state tax authorities, and obtain appropriate releases.

Remember to close out any subscriptions such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, gym memberships, and automatically refilling prescriptions.

For deceased military personnel drawing retirement pay it is recommended that you immediately contact the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.1 Retirement benefits terminate as of the date the retiree died. Any payments made to the retiree’s account after the date of death will be recouped from the retiree’s bank account.

There could be other streams of income such as a former employer’s pension. It is important to contact the source to determine if the income stream has a period certain for payout and a beneficiary listed. Don’t forget to close out the deceased Social Security accounts.2

3. Organize the Deceased’s Assets

This includes homes, vacation properties, cash, other financial assets, and businesses. Locate, inventory, and safeguard valuable household and personal property. Prepare a detailed listing for the heirs and tax authorities.

It can be helpful to keep a filing system to ensure that you’re organized. Keep all this information with the documents you gathered in step 1.

4. Collect Money Owed to and Pay the Debts of the Deceased’s Estate

File or assist beneficiaries in filing for life insurance proceeds. When closing out the Social Security account, file for the deceased death benefit. Also, examine and adjudicate outstanding debts owed to the deceased as well as creditors’ claims against the estate.

5. Maintain and Prepare the Deceased’s Real Estate Property Ready for Sale

Make sure routine property maintenance and security occurs prior to disposition of the deceased’s real estate. Check for tax or mortgage liens against the deceased’s property. Get professional advice on what steps to take to ready the property for sale. When the property can be put on the market, contact a qualified realtor or determine a sales strategy.

Expedite or Avoid the Probate Process

With proper estate planning, it is possible to avoid, or at least minimize, the time and expense involved in probating a will.3 For example, life insurance proceeds, some retirement accounts, as well as jointly owned real estate, pass directly to the beneficiaries without going through probate. Other strategies, like setting up a revocable living trust, can expedite the transfer of assets and bypass probate completely.4

Good Planning Leads to the Best Execution

An executor can help ensure orderly and uncontested flow of assets from the deceased’s estate to the heirs with attention to detail and preplanning. That includes advice to and consultation with the person prior to death, so planning occurs before the time comes when the executor must carry out the sad and often stress-filled duties described above.


More Reads:

The 4 Most Important Estate Planning Documents

Is All Fair in Love & Inheritance? How Careful Estate Planning Can Cool the Drama

Avoid These Blunders When Setting Up a Living Trust

Estate Planning for Young Adults: 4 Documents Your 18-Year-Old Needs in Place Now

The Scary Reality of Living Without A Living Will






This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.