Has someone in your life recently asked you to become the executor of their Will? Our team here Trust & Will want to congratulate you on receiving this honor. The decision to choose someone to be the executor of a Will is not made lightly, as the person who receives this role must be honorable, trustworthy, and diplomatic. Now that you have been named the executor of a Will, you may be wondering what sort of duties and responsibilities you will need to fulfill. Don’t stress– we’ve got you covered.
We understand that it can be hard to know exactly what your duties may be, as the roles of an executor are not commonly discussed, and to make it even more confusing, there are different types of executors. To help clear up the confusion, we have put together this article to cover everything you need to know about being an executor of a Will. Keep reading to learn the answers to the following questions in regards to being the executor of a Will:
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that coordinates the management and distribution of your assets after death. A Will is often a part of an estate plan that the grantor established prior to their death in order to detail who would receive their assets after they have passed. Assets can include anything from monetary items, such as cars and houses, to non-monetary items that hold a special significance to the family, such as a family cookie jar that has been passed down for years, or a homemade quilt the deceased created and wanted to leave to their grandchild. The people who receive assets left to them in a Will are known as the beneficiaries of the Will.
The Will is a key component of a comprehensive estate plan, as it allows for a more seamless transition of assets to beneficiaries after the death of the grantor (the Will’s creator).
What is an executor of a Will?
Have you ever wondered who actually makes sure that the wishes of the deceased are met, or that the guidelines set forth in the Will are actually followed? This is where the executor of a Will comes in. The executor of a Will is the person chosen by the deceased to ensure that the Will is carried out successfully and in accordance with the wishes of the grantor. This person is named in the WiIl as the appointed executor of the Will so that there are no disputes regarding the validity of their appointment.
What are the responsibilities of the executor of a Will?
The exact duties and responsibilities of the executor of a Will may vary from person to person, as the contents of each person's Will are going to look different based on their individual needs and their acquired assets. However, there are a few main responsibilities that almost all executors of a Will are required to complete as a part of their role. It is also important to note that some of these duties may need to be completed in conjunction with the executor of the Will, as some of these responsibilities are interlinked.
Receive the death certificate
The first step all executors of a Will are required to complete is to obtain the original death certificate of the deceased. Without the death certificate, you will be unable to complete the rest of your duties, as you will need to submit the death certificate to many banking and other institutions as proof of death.
Submit the Will to probate court
After you have proof of death, you will need to locate a copy of the Will of the deceased and submit it to the probate court. Probate court is the court proceedings that larger and more complex Wills are required to go through in order to settle the assets within the Will. It is your job as the executor to begin the probate court process, if necessary, by submitting the necessary documents to the court, as well as attending all probate court proceedings until all assets are settled.
Keep beneficiaries up to date
Throughout the process of settling a Will in probate court, it will be your responsibility to keep all beneficiaries informed along the way. It may be likely that not all beneficiaries will be present at all court proceedings. However, it will be important for the executor to notify the beneficiaries of any court dates they may be required to attend and to let them know when they can expect to receive their inheritance. Be sure to document all of your correspondences with the beneficiaries and any other people you are in contact with in regard to handling the estate.
Pay debts and file taxes
If the deceased has any outstanding debts in their name, such as loans or mortgages, it is your responsibility to ensure that all of the deceased’s accounts are reconciled, and their debts are paid. This is an instance where you will need to work with the executor of the Will, as you may need to work together to ensure all debts are paid.
Additionally, it will be your responsibility to file any taxes owed by the deceased. This is another instance in which you will need to work with the executor of the Will - if it isn’t you, as the assets left in Will by the grantor will also need to be documented within the taxes of the estate.
Although the responsibilities and duties of being an executor of a Will may seem challenging at first, they do not need to be. When people create a comprehensive estate plan, the process of transitioning assets to the rightful beneficiaries can be much smoother. That being said, it’s never a bad idea to create or update your own estate plan.
At Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options today!
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