Ask a Lawyer – “I was named as the executor for an estate. What does this entail?”

Following the passing, an executor named in the will, who accepts the task, should consider fulfilling some “preliminary” tasks such as making funeral and burial arrangements, redirecting mail, and publishing an obituary.

Once the preliminary responsibilities have been completed, an Executor should begin distributing the items as outlined in the will. The Executor would need to start by paying off any estate debts, dealing with any assets and completing a tax return.

An Executor would have a duty selling or transferring any real estate.

Once the debts are paid, and the real estate is transferred or sold, an Executor of the will distribute the estate to the beneficiaries specified under the will. An Executor would distribute the assets beginning with any specific bequests (any item that is specifically gifted in the will), followed by any legacies (cash payments to the named beneficiaries). The Executor would distribute any residue (i.e. any remaining assets) to the residuary beneficiaries based on the terms of the will.   

Essentially, an executor has the duty to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries and to ensure that the wishes of the testator be carried out during the administration. The Executor of an estate chosen to help execute the wishes of the executor set out in their will and would be responsible for the maintenance of the estate, including organizing the funeral and burial wishes, and paying of any remaining debts.

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