Selecting the right executor is an important part of making your will. It helps to understand the role the executor will play in safeguarding your estate and making sure the provisions of your will are duly carried out.
The executor's first duty will be to initiate the probate process and submit the appropriate paperwork to the court. Once he or she receives the Letter of Administration from the court, your executor begins the various tasks involved in managing the estate.
Marshaling the assets
The management process usually starts with inventorying the various assets. For some estates, this can be a quick and straightforward process; for others, it can take months to untangle. In addition to describing the asset, the executor will need to obtain a valuation. For assets consisting of real estate or a business, this can mean obtaining the services of a qualified valuator.
Once the executor has a complete tally of the estate's assets, it will be time to pay debts and expenses. Typically, this means settling outstanding bills, paying for the funeral and repaying debts. The executor will need to keep in mind that he or she may have to verify the legitimacy of creditors' claims and potentially litigate disputes. Otherwise, simply paying a disputed debt can be a failure of the executor's duty to the beneficiaries.
Before distributing the estate, the executor will also need to pay taxes. This can include estate taxes as well as any outstanding tax liabilities.
Distributing the estate
The executor then distributes the estate according to the terms of the will. This part of the process can go smoothly or involve dealing with conflicts among relatives.
Throughout the probate process, the executor will need to keep detailed records of every transaction and be prepared to give a complete accounting of the handling of every asset forming part of the estate. Once distribution is complete, the executor will formally close the case with the court.