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What Does the Executor of a Will Do?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

When you write a will, you name an executor. It's relatively common knowledge. Yet many might wonder: What does the executor actually do?

There are many different duties that the executor of a will might take on. Essentially, executors are tasked with an enormous responsibility. They are there to ensure that your last wishes are executed properly, in accordance with your will.

Their duties are varied, and dependent on how complex your estate is. In general, here are four things that an executor of a will has to do:

1. Find Assets

Executors will locate the deceased's assets and keep them safe until they can be distributed properly. This can be a time-consuming task if the deceased had many assets. It may also get complicated if the deceased had assets that are difficult to locate.

2. Contact Heirs

The executor will also go on to contact the heirs named in the will. They will also typically contact any of the deceased's creditors.

3. Distribute Property

The executor then needs to distribute the property. In general, an executor will first need to pay off the estate's debts. The remaining assets will then be distributed to the heirs in accordance with the will.

4. File Paperwork

The executor will also ensure that the proper procedures are taken care of. This may mean that the executor will file any necessary paperwork with the probate court in the appropriate jurisdiction.

Note that by definition, "executor" is a person named in the will. If there is no will, a court will appoint someone called the "administrator." The administrator will see that the estate's property is passed through the appropriate state laws. He or she will perform similar functions to an executor, and distribute the estate's assets.

Now that you know what the executor of a will executor does, you'll want to choose someone you trust for this important role. Because laws vary by state about who can qualify as an executor, you'll also want to consult an experienced local attorney to make sure your wishes will be carried out.

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