The different types of executor duties include gathering the information regarding the deceased person's assets, filing the will with the probate office, paying any debts or taxes owed, finding potential heirs, and dividing the estate among the heirs as noted in the deceased person's will. The executor is most often named in the will but may also be assigned if no will was written. An executor is the person who executes the will and may be a family member, friend or even the deceased person's attorney.
The most pressing executor duties involve first being officially named the executor by the probate office. As long as the deceased had a will, this is typically not a problem. If there is no known will, the spouse or adult child is often named the executor. Once the executor decision has been made, funeral arrangements must be completed. One of the executor duties is to carry out the wishes of the deceased with regards to how the funeral is to be conducted and whether or not the body is to be cremated.
How the funeral will be paid for is another one of the executor duties. Most municipalities have laws that require funeral expenses to be the first debts paid from a deceased person's estate. If there is a life insurance policy, many funeral homes will accept that in lieu of cash until the estate is settled. The executor should consult with the deceased person's spouse, if still alive, to determine whether the insurance policy should be used. This is important in the event that there are not enough liquid assets to pay the funeral home directly.
Once the funeral arrangements have been made and carried out, the executor duties shift to financial matters. The executor should take an accounting of all of the deceased person's assets, including homes, cars, personal property and financial items like stocks and bonds. Debts should also be determined, such as loans, credit cards, and mortgages. While the will is being probated, the deceased person's debts still need to be paid. It is one of the executor duties to make sure monthly bills such as utilities continue to be paid so the estate stays in good shape.
When the creditors have all been paid, property may then be divided among the heirs listed in the will. If there were people left out of the will who feel they have a legal right to a share of the estate, they are required to file a petition to fight the execution of the will as it is written. If this becomes an issue, one of the executor duties is to present the documentation on how the will has been followed so the probate judge can make a ruling as to whether the will is valid.
Once any issues regarding the will being contested are resolved, the executor must pay any estate taxes owed and distribute the remaining proceeds to the rightful heirs. This may take some time, as property and other tangible assets may have to be sold to complete the distribution. Once the proceeds are distributed, the final executor duties include filing a final settlement document with the probate office and getting a document back stating the will has been fully executed.