What Does an Executor of a Will Do?

What Does an Executor of a Will Do?

Estate planning plays a crucial role in everyone’s life to help protect your loved ones and your assets long after you’re gone. However, this cannot be possible unless you have an executor. And before we know what an executor does, it is important to understand what an executor of a will is.

Simply put, an executor is someone who executes the plans you outline in your will and other estate planning documents after your death.

After you’re gone, it is your Executor’s responsibility to execute all your wishes and ensure the safe distribution of your assets and help your loved ones.

Duties of an Executor

The Executor’s role in Estate Planning starts even before the death of the testator. To be prepared for the duties that ensue when the estate plan goes into effect, the Executor needs to fulfill some duties while the testator is estate planning. This will help them have an easier time later.

Before the testator dies:

    • Ensure Estate Plan is updated:

      The executor needs to make sure the testator regularly updates a list of all important information like assets and debts.


    • Discuss locations and agents:

      The executor can execute the estate plan efficiently only with certain tools at his disposal. This includes documents like Wills and assets lists and helpers like attorneys and financial advisors.

      Therefore, it is necessary the executor has their contact information and knows how to locate different documents.


    • Talk about the Will:

      Despite creating an elaborate estate plan, it may help the executor to discuss it with the testator and clarify any doubts, and perhaps even refine it further.

      It is also important to discuss the Will with beneficiaries, if possible, to reduce any conflicts after the death of the testator.


    • Have copies:

      Having copies of different estate planning documents can help the executor always stay in the loop and be prepared for different scenarios. These documents include the Will, letter of intent, powers-of-attorney, etc.

      It is important to note that these copies need to be updated versions too. While this may seem difficult, it can be made easy by using the right tools that help in easy collaboration like Clocr.


    • Discuss funeral services:

      Talking about funeral arrangements and any memorial services can help the executor plan for the service more easily. Including budgeting, locations, people, etc. can help the executor deal with it better.

      This can be done either orally or in a written format, making it a part of your estate plan.


After the testator dies:

    • Make funeral arrangements:

      This is probably the first thing that an executor should do. Usually, the testator leaves instructions for funeral planning in their estate plan, which needs to be used to make the arrangements.

      However, if this is not the case, the executor still needs to make arrangements and cover its cost. The assets and savings from the estate can be used to fund the funeral arrangement.


    • Submit the Will:

      The Executor has to locate, read and understand the Will. Following this, the Will and the death certificate need to be filed at a probate court within a few days after the death of the testator.

      Usually, this is followed by a hearing that determines the validity of the Will. In most states, this is also where the Will can be contested.


    • Ensure all assets are accounted for:

      The Executor needs to make sure all assets of the testator are accounted for. This includes those mentioned in the Will and not mentioned in the Will. This can be done by tracking different financial accounts, going through the testator’s papers, talking to family members, etc.

      The Executor may also be required to catalog all assets, record future transactions, and report their accounting to the probate court.


    • Notify the death:

      The Executor has to notify all parties about the death of the testator. This could include:

      1. Beneficiaries
      2. Family and friends
      3. Guardians
      4. Social Security Administration
      5. Services and subscriptions
      6. Creditors
      7. Banks
      8. Insurance companies
      9. Media outlets (to run a notice)


    • Handle Probate Process:

      The Executor is also responsible for determining what kind of probate is necessary. For example, payable-on-death assets and insurance payouts do not need to go through probate, and the process may be expedited depending on the estate value.

      The probate process begins after the executor files a petition with the courts and receives the letters testamentary document. In some instances, the Executor may have to represent the estate in court as well.



    • Set up a bank account:

      The executor needs to set up a bank account in the name of the decedent’s estate for any expenses, pending payments like incoming funds, and any ongoing bills and taxes. This account, therefore, can be used to collect any pending paychecks and pay off mortgages, utilities, etc.

      The Executor has to clear all applicable taxes as well. This could include income tax, state inheritance and estate taxes, and gift taxes.


    • Handle asset transfer:

      An Executor also needs to ensure the right assets are transferred to the right people. This is done according to the Will left by the testator. In case there is no Will, the assets need to be distributed based on the state’s intestacy laws.

      If there is any delay in transferring or selling the assets, the Executor also needs to maintain and protect the property. Moreover, any leftover assets after debt clearing and beneficiary distribution need to be disposed of too.

While it may seem that an executor has the ability to do a lot of things, it is not so. There are some things that an executor cannot do, which protect the testator’s estate plan and the beneficiaries of the estate.

Digital Executor for a Digital Estate Plan

Most often, people tend to forget about their digital assets while creating an estate plan. More people than ever rely on the internet for day-to-day needs, leaving a large financial and emotional trail online, which needs to be protected from identity theft after one’s death (also called ghosting).

This can be done by creating a digital estate plan that lets you pass on your digital assets like cryptocurrency and photo albums to your loved ones. And this plan can be executed by your digital executor.

Similar to an executor for an estate plan, your digital executor is responsible for distributing your digital assets. Their rights, too, are limited by a law called RUFADAA to ensure your digital estate plan is conveniently executed without compromising on your digital privacy.