Will Executor Duties FAQ

The executor plays a very important role after the testator (the person to whom the will relates) dies, including the tasks of tracking down assets, paying creditors, and making sure beneficiaries named in the will receive the property to which they are entitled. 

Below are answers to frequently asked questions with respect to a will executor's duties. See FindLaw's Estate Administration section for additional articles and resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is an Executor?

An executor is someone appointed by the court, often nominated in the will, who is given the legal responsibility to take care of a deceased person's remaining financial obligations. This means taking care of everything from disposing of property to paying bills and taxes. Most executors are immediate family members, with spouses, children, and parents being the most common executors. See also Checklist: The Executor's Role.

What Are Executors Typically Responsible for Doing?

Executors, as part of winding down an estate, will often perform the following functions, with the money to perform these duties coming from the estate itself:

  • Distributing assets according to the will
  • Maintaining property until the estate is settled (e.g., upkeep of a house)
  • Paying bills for the estate
  • Paying taxes on the estate
  • Make court appearances for the estate

See also What Does an Executor Do?

Does an Executor Have To Serve or Can They Refuse the Responsibility?

The person named as an executor in a will can decline the responsibility that being an executor entails. In addition, someone who originally accepted the role as executor can resign at any time. As a result, it is generally recommended that you name alternative executors, otherwise a court will appoint a replacement executor if your original choice bows out for some reason.

Do Executors Get Paid?

Generally, most executors perform their duties without payment, but executors are entitled to payment. The reason most executors don't request compensation is that most executors are close family members and perform their duties out of respect for the deceased. The amount an executor gets paid is set by state law and what a probate court decides is reasonable under the circumstances.

Do Executors Need To Hire a Lawyer?

Many wills are fairly routine and simple and require no specialized knowledge. Even if a will goes through probate court, the paperwork required does not require a legal degree. However, if there are disputes, complex property issues, significant tax liability, etc., then an executor should seriously consider getting professional help in the form of a lawyer. An executor may use a lawyer as a resource to ask legal questions, or the executor may turn the entire probate process over to the lawyer.

Have Concerns About Executing a Will? An Attorney Can Put Your Mind at Ease

Although most wills are fairly routine and simple, if there are significant tax liability and financial considerations, then employing someone like an accountant or an estate planning attorney may be helpful. Keep in mind that executors may hire attorneys and pay them with proceeds from the estate. Find a local estate planning attorney near you today.

Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex probate situations usually require a lawyer
  • A lawyer will take these matters seriously and enforce protections
  • Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions
  • Many attorneys offer free consultations

If you need an attorney, browse our directory now.