Posted on August 28, 2007 by

Duties of an Executor

One of the important decisions involved in preparing a will is choosing an executor. The executor, called a personal representative in some states, is in charge of the administration of the estate and has many duties and responsibilities. Some of the more important tasks include:


  • Locate the latest will.
  • File a petition with the court to probate the will.
  • Gather and take control of all of the decedent’s assets.
    • Take possession of safe deposit box contents.
    • Consult with banks in the area to find all accounts of the deceased. Also check for cash and other valuables hidden around the home.
    • Transfer all securities to his or her name (as executor) and continue to collect dividends and interest on behalf of the beneficiaries of the estate. 
    • Find, inventory and protect household and personal effects and other personal property. 
    • Collect all life insurance proceeds payable to the estate.
    • Find and inventory all real estate deeds, mortgages, leases and tax information. Provide immediate management for rental properties.
    • Arrange ancillary administration for out-of-state real estate.
    • Collect monies owed the deceased and check for interests in estates of other deceased persons.
  • Find and safeguard business interests, valuables, personal property, important papers, the residence, etc.
  • Inventory all assets and arrange for an appraisal if necessary.
  • Determine liquidity needs. Assemble bookkeeping records. Review investment portfolio. Sell appropriate assets. 
  • Pay valid claims against the estate. Reject improper claims and defend the estate, if necessary. 
  • Pay state and federal taxes due. 
    • File income tax returns for the decedent and the estate.
    • File federal estate tax return and state death and/or inheritance tax return.
  • Prepare statement of all receipts and disbursements. Pay attorney’s fees and executor’s commissions.
  • Distribute specific bequests and the remainder of the estate; obtain tax releases and receipts as directed by the court. Establish a testamentary trust (or pour over into a living trust), where appropriate.

As you can see, the job of an executor is not an easy one. For larger and more complicated estates, the administration can often last two years or more. It is important to choose your executor wisely, whether you choose a family member, friend, or a bank or trust company. If you are in the position of serving as an executor, seeking appropriate legal, tax and financial counsel can make your job much easier and, in many cases, save money and avoid problems for the estate.


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