What Does an Estate Executor Do?

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After funerals at funeral homes, one of the next things that will happen is that the estate of the person who died must be settled. Whether by will or trust, the deceased has named someone to be their estate’s executor. If you’ve been asked to by someone to be their estate’s executor, it’s an honor because that means they trust you implicitly to do the right thing for all the beneficiaries and to carry their wishes out to the letter.

However, being the executor of an estate requires a commitment of time and effort. Some estates are fairly easy to execute. Others are not.

The executor of an estate is responsible for managing the estate when the owner of the estate dies. The executor acts as that person’s representative, which includes making sure any debts or taxes owed by the estate are paid and that the remaining assets are distributed as the deceased intended to the beneficiaries of the estate.

If the deceased has a will that names an executor, that person is usually a close family member, but it’s not unusual for people to name longtime, trusted friends to be executors of their estates. If the deceased doesn’t have a will, then the court will appoint an executor. While executors don’t need to be lawyers or accountants, they do need to be trustworthy and fulfill the obligations of the will, or in the case of no will, look out for the best interests of those who are inheriting the estate.

You will be the executor of the estate until the estate is settled – all debts and taxes are paid, life insurance claims are completed, and all the assets of the estate of distributed to the heirs of the estate. While this won’t require you to give up your daytime job, it will require you to devote some time to it and pay attention to all the details.

Be aware that in your role as executor, you will be dealing with people who are grieving, and who may not be thinking as rationally as they would otherwise. You also will likely encounter family conflicts over who gets what personal property of the deceased. And you may find that, at times, your role as executor starts to feel overwhelming. Be careful not to let that sense of being overwhelmed cause you to delay doing what you are supposed to do.

The first things that an executor does is to ensure the validity of the will (it must be the most current copy and it must be signed and dated by the deceased), share the contents of the will with named beneficiaries, get organized and keep up with expenses (hiring professional help, paying debts, paying taxes, etc.), get certified copies of the death certificate, and file the will with the probate court (this is required to legally transfer ownership of physical assets like property, bank accounts, and financial investments to heirs).

To avoid having to transfer ownership of physical assets through probate court, which can hold up the process of settling an estate, a revocable trust can be created instead of a will. A revocable trust transfers all the assets of the estate into the names of the people who are listed as beneficiaries in the trust. When the creator of the trust dies, all the heirs become the owners of the assets in the trust.

It usually takes approximately one year to settle an estate. Any debts owed by the estate should be paid immediately, and any state or federal taxes must be filed and paid within nine months after the death of the estate owner.

If you need resources to help execute an estate after funerals at funeral homes, our empathetic and knowledgeable staff at Hopler & Eschbach Funeral Home can assist you. You can stop by our funeral home at 483 Chenango St., Binghamton, NY 13901, or you can contact us today at (607) 722-4023.