One of the main functions of an estate executor is ensuring that the wishes expressed in the will of the deceased are followed. This means that the executor has to know when the will is to be read, where it is located, etc. They must work closely with the attorney who drew up the will so that they are sure to understand the legal responsibilities that the will requires. The executor ensures that all parties involved (e.g., heirs) receive a copy of the will when necessary and oversees the distribution of the deceased property as it is indicated in the will.
Usually, family members or close friends take on the responsibility of funeral, cremation or other burial arrangements. Sometimes, however, an individual has no remaining relatives or other individuals who are capable of these duties. In such instances, the executor of the estate steps in and makes the arrangements for the deceased. The executor must make sure that the arrangements comply with the specifications in the will, if such specifications were included.
Perhaps the most complex task of an estate executor is to organize and settle all assets and debts of the deceased. This means that the executor has to notify all creditors, lien holders, insurance agents and others that were involved with the deceased about the death; they are responsible for determining the amount of monies held in the estate, such as in bank accounts, property and stocks, so that the money can be distributed to heirs or used to settle account delinquencies. Dealing with the assets and debts of the deceased also requires the executor to make sure all taxes owed by the deceased were paid. Lengthy and frustrating legal disputes sometimes ensue, especially if the deceased kept poor records or did not organize the records that were kept.
Because the executor of an estate is faced with such a large number of responsibilities, which can be very time-consuming, the person chosen to act as estate executor is usually a spouse, as a spouse typically is already aware of many legal issues, assets and debts, etc. However, it is a good idea to name someone who can act as an executor in place of the first choice, because there is no guarantee that the executor will outlive the estate holder or will be in a physical state to take up executor responsibilities after the estate holder's passing.