Wills and Estates

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This is not a substitute for legal advice. An attorney must be consulted. To find an attorney in your area, please CLICK HERE.

What is an executor?

An executor is named by the decedent in a Will to oversee the administration of the estate throughout the probate procedure and to see that the provisions of the Will are properly carried out. Likewise, an administrator is appointed by the court to carry out the estate administration for a person who dies intestate (without a Will). "Personal representative" is the term used by many states when referring to either an executor or administrator. An executor or administrator can usually be one or more individuals or a financial institution. In the case of an intestate estate, or in the case where a named executor cannot serve for some reason, state law generally gives certain persons priority to apply to act as executor. The person ultimately appointed by the court may not have been the choice of the decedent, which is why it is important for the Will to properly designate the executor and one or more alternates. Careful forethought should be given when nominating an executor. It can be a thankless job because it is difficult to please all beneficiaries.  Management and decision making skills are necessary. Appointing a family member may not always be the wisest choice.

The basic functions of a personal representative, which can be routine or very complex depending on the complexity of the estate, are as follows:

  1. Gather and assemble the property belonging to the estate, and give proper notices to creditors and/or beneficiaries.

  2. Safeguard and insure the property during estate administration.

  3. Value the assets.

  4. Manage and invest the estate property, which may involve carrying on a business or hiring an expert to help with these duties.

  5. Pay the estate debts and expenses and file necessary income tax and death tax returns. Raise the cash needed to pay these obligations.

  6. Prepare an accounting to submit to the court.

  7. Distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.


This is not a substitute for legal advice.  An attorney must be consulted.
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