I Was Appointed an Executor. What Are My Responsibilities?

A. Being named an executor in a will can be an honor and allow you the opportunity to handle your loved one’s final wishes. But it can also be a large responsibility, depending on the size of the estate and the number of heirs.

There are various steps you need to take if you are appointed an executor. Here are the basics.

  1. The executor-puzzlefirst step to take is to make sure the personal assets of the estate are safe. For example, if you believe that the assets in the decedent’s house are not safe because too many relatives have keys, and you believe the locks on the home need to be changed to make the assets safe, then you may need a court order to change the locks.
  2. You also need to notify banking or brokerage institutions of the death. Inform them that you were designated as the executor in the will and you are petitioning the court to probate it. Probate is the proceeding in court that is necessary for you to collect the assets of the estate and distribute them pursuant to the will.
  3. You should notify any mortgage lenders of the death. Inform them you have been appointed executor and most importantly, see whether there is a grace period to make payments on the loans. This is extremely important because the mortgagee will generally begin foreclosure proceedings on the property after a few missed payments.
  4. You need to go to court to offer the will for probate.
  5. After filing probate papers, you will receive a certificate of proof (sometimes called “letters testamentary”) that you are the executor of the estate.The probate petition is extensive. You must supply the court with factual information as to heirs and assets. Some of the information you generally need to provide is:
    • The name of the fiduciary in the will (you).
    • The name of the decedent, date of death, place of death and a copy of the death certificate.
    • The original will and generally an affidavit of attesting witnesses.
    • The number of survivors (closest heirs or relatives) and their relationship to the decedent.
    • Whether or not some of the heirs are minors, infants or persons with a disability.
    • Whether some of the heirs are unknown.
    • A summary listing of the type of assets and a listing of debts.
    • A listing of any outstanding or potential court proceedings involving the estate (such as a wrongful death proceeding).
    • Miscellaneous other information related to the particular situation.
  6. You need to provide notice to people named in the will and serve a citation on the heirs.
  7. After receiving the appointment as the executor, you have to open an estate bank account to deposit collected assets of the estate.
  8. You must file tax returns, pay creditors and distribute the assets to the beneficiaries pursuant to the will.
  9. At the close of the estate, you may need to provide an accounting to the court.

Being an executor can be a big job. You will usually receive a fee for your services (pursuant to state law).

If you do not want to take on the job, you need to inform family members and renounce your right to be the executor. Depending on local court procedure, this entails filing a form in court renouncing your role, either separately or as part of a proceeding. If you do not file the form in court when the will is offered for probate by another person, you will receive a notice of the probate and the motion to remove you as the executor. However, it is best to renounce your role with the proper form.

Conclusion: If you are appointed an executor in a will, there are many steps you must take to close an estate. Consult with your attorney if you have questions or need assistance.

For more information on this topic, please contact Sarai Portillo by completing the form below.

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Sarai Portillo Santos
Sarai Portillo Santos

Sarai Santos is a Tax Senior Manager for BeachFleischman. She provides accounting, tax, and consulting services for a variety of closely-held businesses and their owners since joining the firm in 2014.