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What Does an Executor of a Will Do?

These are the top 10 duties of an executor.

Perhaps you’ve been named as the executor of a loved one’s estate, or maybe you’re considering whom you should name as executor of your own will. In either case, it’s a big responsibility; the executor is in charge of making sure a person's last wishes are carried out in regard to their property and assets.


“An executor of a will ensures that your estate is handled properly, notifies necessary parties of the passing, and helps with the distribution and oversight of the estate,” says Deneise Saenz, SVP, Trust and Estates Officer at Cadence Bank. “During times of grief and stress, aspects of your estate may become points of tension or fall through the cracks; these can be attended to by your executor, allowing loved ones to manage more personal matters." This article will help you understand what an executor of a will does.


1. Get a copy of the will and file it with the local probate court

An executor will typically handle all of the paperwork and filing with the courts. This includes filing a copy of the will with the court. Having an executor before the probate process begins will avoid a court-appointed solution. "If an executor has not been named or if there is not a will, the court may appoint an executor of its choosing, usually the closest capable relative of the deceased person,” she says.


2. Notify government agencies, credit card companies and banks of the decedent’s death

Executors are responsible for collecting financial data and contacting financial and governmental institutions regarding the passing of the deceased. “Having someone who is familiar with bank accounts, credit cards, loans and financial situations can make this process much easier and more efficient. The executor will review tax records, brokerage statements and bank records available to locate all assets of the deceased,” adds Saenz.


3. Set up a bank account for incoming money and pay any bills

Expenses of the estate that occur during the probate process are typically paid out of the estate assets. To ensure debts are paid timely, the executor will set up an account for the estate and payments will be made from this account during the estate administration process.


4. File an inventory of the estate’s assets with the court

An inventory of the estate will be created, and the estate assets valued. The executor will file the inventory list of estate assets with the court.


5. Decide what kind of probate is necessary

Once the will has been filed, a process for covering costs of probate established and an inventory taken, the court will decide whether a dependent or independent administration is necessary.


  • A dependent administration requires court supervision and is often the result of conflict between heirs or creditor issues with the deceased or in cases where no will was executed by the deceased person. In this arrangement, the court must approve all transactions.
  • Independent administration is the most common and least costly probate process. It requires less court supervision and involvement.

6. Maintain property until it can be distributed or sold

In either administration, the executor will oversee estate property until all affairs of the estate have been settled including payment of outstanding debts. In some cases, estate assets may be sold to pay debts.


7. Pay the estate’s taxes

The executor of the estate is charged with allocating funds from the estate in accordance with the will to cover any taxes that are due before the inheritance can be distributed. The executor will insure all tax returns due from the estate and deceased are filed with the appropriate government agencies.


8. Distribute assets

Once all affairs of the estate are completed, including payment of debts and taxes, the executor will distribute the estate assets to the beneficiaries of the will or the heirs at law if no will was executed.


9. Dispose of other property

Any property that has not been listed in the will may be disposed of by the executor. “Your executor isn’t really ‘disposing’ of anything,” cautions Saenz. “Rather, the executor continues to oversee the sale or donation of assets that aren’t spoken for, covered in the will, nor desired by a relative or other inheriting party.” The proceeds of the sale of assets will be added to the estate assets for ultimate distribution to the heirs.


10. Represent the estate in court

During the entirety of the process, the executor serves as the representative of the estate, rather than a specific party or person. This ensures that the wishes communicated in a will and estate plan are carried out to the best of their abilities, without prejudice for a certain inheriting party.


Talk to an estate planning professional

While many of these tasks may seem fairly straightforward, an experienced executor who is familiar with the probate process can alleviate potential issues during an emotionally trying time. “It can be difficult to discuss finances and the end of life with someone outside of the family,” says Saenz. “But doing so before anything happens and building a relationship of trust with someone like your trust officer can make it easier for everyone. Don’t wait until it is too late, and the courts have to figure it out."


Download our free eBook to learn more

Learn more about estate planning by downloading our free eBook, “Estate Planning: Why It’s Important and How to Get Started.” Or, if you’re ready to talk to a Cadence Bank estate planning expert, please contact us today.


This article is provided as a free service to you and is for general informational purposes only. Cadence Bank makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the content in the article. The article is not intended to provide legal, accounting or tax advice and should not be relied upon for such purposes.

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