An executor is a person named by a Will in charge of wrapping up the decedent’s estate and making sure that the wishes of the decedent are followed. Often, people name close friends or relatives as executors of their estate, reflecting on that person’s trustworthiness, reliability, and managerial ability. People named as an executor frequently feel a sense of validation or honor at their designation, recognizing that it is a big deal to be left in charge of someone’s Will—but perhaps not recognizing the staggering amount of responsibilities and potential liability that accompany this distinction.
An executor’s duties are imposed upon them by the probate code, and though the task of concluding an estate seems simple on the surface, it can be fraught with complications. The marquee duty of an executor is known as a “fiduciary duty,” meaning that the executor must act honestly, in good faith, and in the best interest of the beneficiaries of the estate. Any breach of these duties may expose an executor to personal liability if the beneficiaries choose to sue—something few executors expect.
A typical estate, without any complications, can still take up to one year or more to conclude. During this time, an executor can expect to doing the following:
- Paying debts of the Estate
- Paying taxes due by the Estate
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Creating and managing Estate accounts for handling expenses
- File the Will with the probate court, follow filing deadlines and instructions, notifying beneficiaries and named parties
It is important to distinguish the role of an executor from that of a trustee. A trustee is a different type of fiduciary relationship, created to manage and oversee the assets placed in a particular trust—often during the lifetime of the person who created it. An executor’s duty only begins when the person who created the Will has died.
A lot of executors immediately accept their appointment without thinking about what it actually means—being executor is a necessary job with varying responsibilities. If you have been named as an executor and need to talk about it or would like help with administration, don’t hesitate to call our office!