What are your responsibilities as the executor of an estate?

As the executor of an estate, you are in a position of significant responsibility. The person who made out the will trusted you to carry out his or her wishes following his or her death. You must now live up to that obligation.

There are also consequences if you fail to do a good job. According to the American Bar Association, you can be personally liable for mismanagement, self-dealing or honest errors, such as a lapse of property insurance or a failure to file taxes. It is therefore crucial that you understand your responsibilities as the executor.

Understanding the will and managing estate assets

As the executor, you are responsible for securing all assets and determining their value. Before you can do so, however, you have to read the will and be sure you understand it. This often begins with a step-by-step review of the key provisions and then examining the finer points involved.

Sometimes a will names co-executors, and you will have to find out who these are if you do not already know them. You must also identify any beneficiaries listed in the will.

Handling Debts and Funding Bequests

A will often grants bequests of personal property or certain sums of money to specific individuals. It is your responsibility to locate the beneficiaries and carry out the bequests. However, before you can do that, you have to take care of any outstanding debts or claims against the estate.

One of the most significant financial obligations that you have to perform is filing taxes on behalf of the deceased for at least the previous tax year. You must also pay any outstanding debts to creditors. The assets that remain after meeting these obligations are then available to fund bequests.

When you have fulfilled all other obligations, your final responsibility is to close the estate.