Discovering that someone close to you has named you as the executor of their estate can be overwhelming, and downright frightening to some. If you know that, though flattered, you absolutely do not want the responsibility, you can always make the decision to decline to accept the role. The following information will give you a better understanding of being an executor, as well as what you will need to do.

Serving as Executor

Each state has its own laws regarding executorship, especially if you will have to go through the probate process in the court system. Most states disallow anyone with a felony conviction to take on the role, and there may be specific laws governing out of state executors as well. If you are unsure whether you meet the requirements, you should consult an attorney or your local county office.

Your Role as Executor

It’s important to understand that most small estates do not require an executor, and you won’t need to handle funds, property, or assets that transfer to a beneficiary, or beneficiaries, according to the will. If you are named for a large estate, the following may be required of you:

• Attorney – While you don’t need a lawyer, if you are dealing with a significant estate, high estate taxes, or if you are concerned that there may be inheritors that will have disputes, you may want to hire one to help you with the process. You also have the option to hire the attorney to handle all of it for you if you would like to do so.
• The Will – You will need to file the will, and ask for confirmation that you are the representative of the estate from the probate court in the correct area.
• Notification – You will need to let beneficiaries know when the proceedings will occur, and inform creditors and government agencies of the death.
• Manage Assets – This means you will have to secure all assets pertaining to the estate, and determine whether anything will need to be sold.
• Banking – You will have to open an account for all monies that are received by the estate, such as dividends, pay, and other income.
• Handle Expenses – You will have to make sure that any mortgage payments, taxes, utilities, insurance premiums, and other expenses are paid as required.
• Handle Debts – You will have to make sure that creditors are aware of when the proceedings for probate are scheduled to allow them to make their claims.

Your final job in your executor role will be to handle the disbursement of assets to the appropriate beneficiaries and claimants. When that is complete, you will then ask the courts to close the estate.

Being an executor can be somewhat demanding, and if it becomes too much you can resign by notifying the courts, and giving them a record of what you have accomplished so far. Keep in mind that you can always hand the reins over to a lawyer if you don’t feel comfortable resigning. With a proper understanding of the requirements or the help of a qualified Estate Planning Attorney, you should be able to discharge your duties as the executor.

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