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What does “being an executor” mean?

On Behalf of | Sep 16, 2022 | Probate |

Did a family or friend recently begin estate planning and asked you to be their executor? If this is your first time hearing about an executor, you may be wondering what the role entails. An executor shouldn’t be confused with an executioner, which would pose all sorts of legal problems.

An executor of an estate is appointed for the special role of carrying out the final wishes of the deceased. But that’s not all an executor is made to do – here’s what you should know:

Finishing up the deceased’s financial obligations

You were likely designated to be an executor because you are trustworthy and responsible. Because of this, the deceased saw you fit to follow the law and stay in line with the interests of their estate.

What you’ll have to do is care for and protect the deceased’s estate, distribute assets, pay off creditors and file final taxes – not in that order. You may be able to keep track of your responsibilities with a check-list:

  • Secure the home(s), vehicle(s) and valuables
  • Care for or arrange for care of any pets and plants
  • Acquire (several) death certificates
  • Notify and necessary parties (employer, department of health, Social Security Administration, U.S. Postal Service, beneficiaries, etc.)
  • File the will
  • File taxes
  • Pay debts
  • Inventory the estate

The list could go on, but once everything is required of you, then the probate process will finalize and the assets will be distributed accordingly.

Failing your duty as executor

You may have noticed that there are a lot of steps for an executor to accomplish – but it’s your integrity and good judgment that made the testator choose you for the job. While there are a lot you will likely need to do, there’s also a few things you can’t do and, should you fail your duty as executor, there are legal repercussions in doing so – or not doing so.

Firstly, and possibly most importantly, you can’t put your own interests before the interests of the estate. That means taking assets for personal gain.

Secondly, an executor must accomplish their role to the fullest capability. Missing even one step could cause disputes and legal issues. If you’re taking on the role of an executor, you may consider reaching out for legal help to ensure you’re staying well within your duties.