What Does it Mean to Be the Executor to a Will?

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When someone names you as the executor of his will, you have specific fiduciary and legal duties you must carry out upon his death on behalf of the estate. As an executor of a will, you have to follow a number of different federal and state laws regarding the disbursement and eventual closing of the estate, so you should consider contacting an estate planning attorney.

Will Validation

When a person dies, lawyers often refer to that person as a decedent. Before you can begin executing the terms of the will, a judge has to validate the will through probate court. As the executor of the will, it is your responsibility to contact all heirs or beneficiaries of the estate to notify them of the probate hearing. You must also notify the decedent's creditors of the hearing date. At the probate hearing, you must present the original will and certificate of death to the probate judge. The probate hearing also allows heirs and beneficiaries to contest the terms of the will should they choose to do so.

Financial Responsibilities

The executor must take care of the decedent's financial affairs including paying outstanding bills via the decedent's bank accounts and filing his final federal and state tax returns. You are also responsible for collecting any payments owed to the decedent at the time of his death. Examples of these types of payments include regular salaries and any type of investment income earned through securities investments, retirement accounts and property. You must deposit all funds you collect in the decedent's personal or business bank accounts on behalf of the estate.


Once you collect all payments owed to the decedent and pay all of his outstanding debt obligations, you can begin the disbursement process of the estate. This begins by sending a written notification of the disbursement to all of the beneficiaries or heirs to the estate. You will then begin disbursing the assets of the estate to the heirs and beneficiaries of the will according to the decedent's wishes.

Estate Closing

For some estates, it can take multiple disbursements before the assets of the entire estate transfer to the heirs or beneficiaries. As the executor, you will handle each of the disbursements. Once you complete the disbursements and distribute all the assets of the estate accordingly, you begin closing proceedings. In these proceedings, you must present copies of all the disbursements to the probate court as well as proof of payment of the decedent's debts. Once the probate court receives all the necessary paperwork, a judge will officially close the estate and relieve you of your duties as executor.


About the Author

Sue-Lynn Carty has over five years experience as both a freelance writer and editor, and her work has appeared on the websites Work.com and LoveToKnow. Carty holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration, with an emphasis on financial management, from Davenport University.