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What does the executor of an estate do?

One of the most important parts of estate planning is deciding who will be the executor of your estate. All wills have an executor appointed to manage the estate, regardless of if you name an executor or if the state court does. Since an executor is necessary and will be in charge of managing your estate, it is important to pick someone who is trustworthy and responsible.

The executor of your will and other estate planning documents is responsible for managing the terms of the estate and making sure your wishes are honored. Choosing an executor can be a difficult decision as some people may feel honored while others may see it as a burden so it is important to understand what the executor is responsible for before appointing someone as the executor of your estate.

The executor of an estate is often required to manage the estate's assets, which includes paying any bills and taxes due and distributing any inheritance to heirs. Other major responsibilities include managing the estate's paperwork. This can include the will, insurance policies, trusts, bank and retirement accounts, tax records and real estate deeds.

Executors are responsible for notifying parties of the death, which could include notifying government agencies and financial institutions. The executor is also responsible for filing a certified copy of the will in probate court. If probate is required and the executor is confirmed, the executor will have legal authority to manage and act on behalf of the estate. This could mean opening bank accounts to pay outstanding bills and debt.

The executor is also required to file the final federal and state tax returns on behalf of the deceased. This includes filing federal and state estate tax returns if necessary.

When choosing an executor for your estate, it is very important to understand what he or she will be responsible for and if they will be able to handle the time-consuming responsibilities. Individuals selecting an executor or someone who has been appointed an executor of an estate should consult an estate administration attorney for assistance if they have questions or need help.

Source: NJ Today, "Should You Become Executor of Someone's Estate?" Aug. 12, 2013