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3 Important Legal Tips for the Executor of a Family Estate

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

When a death in the family occurs, it is a serious, somber time. However, the world does not stop turning, and despite being in mourning, the executor of an estate must perform several important duties within a reasonable amount of time. Generally, the executor of an estate must review the will and make sure the deceased's last wishes are carried out.

Executors are specifically responsible for paying funeral expenses (using the estate's funds), discovering all the assets owned by the deceased, resolving debts, maintaining all the assets and property, and distributing assets/inheritances. While frequently executors are family members, such as adult children, siblings or spouses, a person is free to designate nearly anyone they wish in their will.

Below you will find three legal tips for individuals who have been chosen to be executors.

1. You Can Say No

While it might seem rude, if you don't feel comfortable taking on the role of executor, you can say no. It's better to pass on the responsibility than to let your own issues complicate matters further. Grief and mourning are complex, and being the executor requires being able to complete legal and financial matters in a timely fashion. There is no legal penalty for saying no, although there could be a financial one if your inheritance is tied to your serving as the executor.

Frequently there are a few alternate executors listed in a will, and if not, a court can appoint an estate administrator, which will perform the same function.

2. Executors Can Get Paid

Because being the executor of an estate is time consuming, and requires actual work, generally, executors can be paid from the estate's funds. Sometimes a will provides that the executor gets a small percentage of the estate for their service, however, in some places it is set, and limited, by state law.

3. Executors Don't Have to Do Manual Labor

An executor does not actually have to personally do the maintenance on the deceased's property, but they do need to hire someone to do it. While simple tasks like checking the mail, watering plants, cleaning, and yard work, can be easy or even cathartic, they can also be challenging and time consuming.

Hiring people to help using the estate's funds is generally considered okay so long as the costs are reasonable and do not cause the estate to be needlessly depleted. Consider asking family members to help out with maintenance and upkeep, as this can save some of the estate's money.

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