Understand Your Role as Executor of Estate

Executor of Estate

What Is an Executor of Estate?

Also known as the executor of the will, an executor of an estate is in charge of a decedent’s (the deceased’s) estate. A decedent can no longer control her or his own affairs, so it becomes someone else’s duty, typically someone either pre-appointed by the decedent or someone close to the decedent, such as a relative.

Common Executor of Estate Jobs

An executor of the estate has roles that occur chronologically. Depending on the size of the estate and the will, the role could take weeks, months or even years.

The executor must manage the estate during the entire process. This could mean appearing in probate court and making filings and dealing with beneficiaries and heirs. Additionally, the executor may need to deal with people such as appraisers and accountants if deemed necessary by courts.

Will Submission and Contesting

An executor’s first job is submitting the decedent’s will last will and testament to the courts. During this process, a judge decides if the will meets state laws and is free of errors.

If the will and testament pass, the rest of the process should be relatively smooth. However, if it is not, the executor must complete additional steps. During this period, those with a stake in the estate (such as heirs) can contest the will.

Appointing an Executor of Estate

Most of the time, the decedent names an executor in the will. More often than not, the judge appoints this person unless anyone objects, which requires a separate lawsuit.

If there is no will or the will does not state an executor, most states have laws that state individual appointments and their order. Consult an attorney if you have a problem with the executor.

The appointed executor can act on behalf of the estate. The judge grants letters of testamentary/administration to the executor to prove to companies or financial institutions that this person has the right to make changes.

Notifications of Death

If not already done, the executor must make the family and any other pertinent people aware of the decedent’s death. This could be done formally or informally and includes ending the decedent’s subscriptions and cards. Also, the Social Security Administration needs to receive a notification if the decent received any benefits.


The next step is identifying and gathering assets for safekeeping. Precious items of value require protection. Part of the executor’s role is talking with family members and going through paperwork to make sure to catalog all items of value.

A properly executed will notes many of these assets, but it is still the executor’s job to ensure to log all items of value properly.

The executor does not need to pay for this process personally. The estate’s money transfers to a new bank account that the executor uses to manage the estate.


The executor must have the decedent’s assets valued for tax purposes to determine estate taxes accurately. She or he can determine the value at the date of death or a date up to six months later. Whichever the decedent chooses, the Internal Revenue Code states specific guidelines to follow. It is best to consult with an attorney to follow all the latest laws and regulations.


If the decedent had debts, family members and beneficiaries do not bear responsibility for paying them unless they cosigned or are a spouse (in some states). However, the executor must notify creditors, and most states require the placing of a newspaper ad declaring the decedent’s death to inform unknown creditors.

At this point, the creditors make claims to the estate for payment. If the executor deems the claims are valid, estate funds pay them off. If a creditor goes unpaid and continues to make claims, they need to go through the courts. Then, the executor needs to hire a lawyer with the estate’s funds to appear in court.

Closing the Estate

At this point, the executor submits an account of all the proceedings, transactions and dealings to the court. Then, the judge allows the executor to distribute all remaining funds and property to those named in the will.

Is an Executor of Estate a Paid Job?

With the amount of work required by the executor of estate, you may be happy to know it is a paying gig. The amount the executor receives depends on the state. Additionally, most last will and testaments have instructions for executor payment. The payment comes out of the decedent’s estate; beneficiaries divide the rest.

Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer

If you ever find yourself named as an executor of estate, hire a lawyer to help you navigate the process. Your lawyer gets paid from of the estate funds and can help you navigate the courts smoothly. A lawyer also has connections to help catalog and find assets, work with creditors and more.

Dealing with a decedent’s estate is already stressful and confusing enough. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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