When a person, the testator, creates a will, he must appoint an executor. In Pennsylvania, the executor (or executrix, if female) will be responsible for submitting the will for probate and distributing the testator's property after his death.
Register of Wills
The register of wills must verify that a will meets Pennsylvania's validity requirements before authorizing the named executor to act. In Pennsylvania, a testator must be of sound mind and at least 18 years old. The will must be in writing, signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses and signed by the witnesses. If the will is valid, the will's executor is sworn in and takes ownership of the testator's estate.
The executor's immediate duties after a will is submitted to the register of wills for probate are to enter the testator's residence to secure any valuables to be distributed and notify the testator's bank, life insurance companies and other companies where the testator may have open accounts. Over the next several months, the executor must collect, secure and value the testator's property. He must also notify the named beneficiaries that they will be receiving a bequest (inheritance) from the testator's estate.
The testator must pay any outstanding debts and estate taxes before distributing any property. Once that task is complete, he may begin distributing the remaining property as set forth in the will. The executor can submit the distribution accounting to the probate court in Pennsylvania for approval, submit the accounting to the beneficiaries for approval or distribute the estate directly to the beneficiaries, who must sign a "receipt and release" for the bequest.