What does Executor of a will do?

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  • Written By: Kathy Heydasch
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 07 May 2019
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The executor of a will is the entity charged with carrying out the wishes of the deceased. This includes everything from the payment of debts to the distribution of assets. A will’s executor may be designated within the text of the will itself or appointed by a court with jurisdictional authority.

When a person dies, the collection of assets and obligations left behind is collectively called an estate. Paperwork must be filed in order for anyone to lay claim to the assets left behind, whether due to debt or inheritance. It is up to the executor of a will to see that this is done in accordance with the wishes of the deceased person while staying within the confines of the law. This process is called probate.

Once a judge gives a legal stamp to an executor, the process of notifying beneficiaries and creditors can begin. Legally, creditors have first right to the assets of the deceased, but there are exceptions, and in most jurisdictions, there is a statute of limitations on how long they have the right to claim them. Typically, the executor of a will posts a notice in the local newspaper to fulfill this obligation. The posting date begins the period for the statute of limitations.


The government is considered a creditor as well, and the executor of a will is responsible for filing all necessary tax forms and paying all taxes owed. Assets managed by the executor can be sold to pay these taxes, as well as other necessary costs of administration. They cannot be sold, however, to benefit the executor personally in any way.

During the time an estate is in probate, the executor maintains a precarious position and stays under great scrutiny. The position of executor can be legally declined by a person named in a will, in which case a court with jurisdictional authority would be required to appoint someone to that position. A person can petition the court for appointment and challenge a someone's legal right to be executor.

The executor of a will is also legally responsible for the management of assets, not just their ultimate disbursement. For example, in the case of property, this might mean the executor should use cash on hand to pay for upkeep. In the case of large amounts of cash, this might mean the executor should invest it safely, but with a decent return on investment. If not, the ultimate owners of the cash or property could sue the executor for the mismanagement of assets during that time.



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