Finding out who has been named as the executor of an estate can be very simple – the individual’s name should appear in the will. But this presumes that you’ve seen or have access to the document, which isn’t always the case. The deceased also might not have left a will, in which case the court appoints an executor. And sometimes there’s a delay before the will is presented to the court for probate and it becomes a matter of public record. Even in these situations, however, you have options to help you find that information.
The Executor’s Duties
You might have to identify and interact with the executor of an estate for any number of reasons. You may be a creditor looking to make a claim for payment, or a potential heir under the will’s terms. The executor of the estate has the power to pay claims and to inform beneficiaries of their inheritances. She’s responsible for presenting the will to the court and opening probate, locating the deceased’s assets, notifying creditors, and managing the deceased’s property throughout the probate process. She must pay any taxes that are due, both for the estate and the deceased’s final year of life. She must submit a report to the court detailing everything she’s done to settle the estate before she can distribute the deceased’s property to his beneficiaries.
Read More: What Are the Duties of the Executor of a Last Will & Testament?
Identifying the Executor Before Probate Opens
If you know you're a beneficiary or if you qualify as an heir – someone who is closely related to the deceased so you’re likely to inherit even if he didn’t leave a will – you should learn the identity of the executor in relatively short order. Her role is to inform you that the will is in probate. If you hear nothing, however, you’ll have to do some digging to identify her. This is easiest after the will’s been admitted to probate, but if it hasn’t, you can file something called a caveat with the probate court in many states. This document alerts the court that you want to be notified when and if a will is presented for probate. It becomes a matter of public record when this happens so you can get a copy and find out who the executor is.
Getting the Will From the Court
You can visit the courthouse and request a copy of the will from the clerk after it’s in the custody of the probate court. Some states, like Texas, allow you to request a copy online. You may need a court case number for the probate estate, but many courts have searchable databases where you can enter the deceased’s name and find the number. You then can request a copy of the will, as well as all other documents that have been filed with the court on behalf of the estate. The executor’s name should appear on most of these documents, along with her contact information in many cases.
As a Last Resort
If there is no will, court proceedings are necessary to open an intestate estate. Someone will eventually be appointed to probate the estate. The proceedings are a matter of public record, so check court records periodically to find out who the court has assigned to the job. Many states provide this information online, but if yours doesn't, pay a visit to the probate court clerk's office periodically to keep abreast of the situation.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.