How to Become an Executor of a Will

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When someone makes a will, he or she appoints an executor to administer the will and see that the person’s wishes are carried out. The duties of an executor essentially include paying the person’s debts after death and carrying out the person’s intentions regarding distribution of money and other assets. The executor can be a spouse, adult children or another relative, or a friend.

The person making the will must choose the executor and must have that person’s permission to assign that responsibility to him. Being an executor requires fulfilling many tasks and can be difficult and time-consuming.

Become an executor

Step 1

Make your intentions known to the person as he makes out his will, if you are willing to take on this responsibility. There is no conflict of interest if you are a beneficiary. In fact, being the executor will ensure that you can protect your own interests. If the person agrees to accept your offer, he will name you executor.

If the person making the will is your husband or wife, chances are you will be the executor. If your spouse--or a parent or other relative--dies intestate (without a will), you may be required to be the executor.

Step 2

Apply to serve as executor if the person originally named cannot or does not wish to fulfill this duty, and no alternatives are named.

Step 3

Submit a petition, along with the will, to probate court, requesting that you be appointed to administer the will. Probate court, also called surrogate court, specializes in the administration of estates.

Step 4

Notify the deceased person's next of kin of your intentions to serve as executor, and you may be required to post a bond.

Step 5

Ask an attorney for assistance, if necessary, in petitioning to become an executor. The attorney will be familiar with the probate laws in your state.

Step 6

Request a hearing in probate court in which you must prove that the will is valid and that the deceased did not prepare a more recent will that would invalidate any previous wills. If these requirements are satisfied, the court will issue a court order appointing you as executor to administer the estate.

Step 7

Get releases from the beneficiaries promising that their claims on the estate are satisfied. In addition, the executor may have to prepare an account of the estate’s disposition for court.


  • While serving as executor can be a big responsibility, the executor is entitled to payment from the estate determined by the laws of the state as well as the by value of the estate. In some cases, the executor may waive the fee, especially if he or she is a beneficiary of the estate.
  • Should you prefer not to assume this responsibility, you must file a statement with the probate court declaring your intention. An executor can drop out at any time. A will should name an alternate executor. If the will does not name an alternate, the court will appoint one.



About the Author

As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.

Photo Credits

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