Understanding your Responsibilities as Executor of a Will

Being named executor of an estate is an honor and a great responsibility. You should feel satisfied that someone, whether it be the decedent or probate judge, has entrusted you with distributing their prized possessions and other assets after their death. At times, though, it can feel like a burden for which you never requested. Outlined below are some key points to help familiarize you with the unique position. 

Share Documents with Appropriate Authorities

To begin, you need to carefully read the decedent’s Last Will and Testament. Hopefully, the decedent will have included all pertinent wishes and desires in the document. After you have read the document you must file the Will, along with the death certificate, with the appropriate entities. A qualified estate attorney will be able to help you determine whether or not the Will needs to be filed with the local probate court.

Pay Off Pertinent Parties

Executors of Wills need to call all financial institutions associated with the decedent, including credit lenders, and notify them. If the decedent was collecting social security payments, as is often the case, the Social Security Administration will also need to be contacted. Final income taxes and estate taxes will need to be handled by the executor. 

Once all financial obligations are squared away, beneficiaries named in the Will are entitled to receive their inheritances. Again, it is up to the executor to properly distribute assets according to the decedent’s instructions. Any assets not addressed in the Will should be recorded and dealt with by the executor with approval from probate.

Can You Decline the Role?

You are not required by law to act as executor of a Last Will and Testament. If this is your desire, it is much easier to achieve this by filing a Renunciation of Execution form before fulfilling any duties performed by the executor or being appointed executor by the probate court, if applicable. Declining the role after being appointed by probate requires you to file a petition in court. 


Executing an estate is a somber duty that can feel like a complicated process. Fortunately, you are usually able to use equity attached to the decedent’s estate to retain an attorney. Some states even award the executor a small fee for their time. Enlisting the counsel of an experienced attorney is something that can save you headache, heartache, time, and money in the long run.

Please contact us today for help with a smooth and painless execution of someone’s Will.

Luis E. Barreto