Trust & Estates Law Blog

Ask the Lawyer: What does an executor do?

Most everyone knows that they need to name an executor in their Last Will and Testament, but unless you’ve acted as an executor yourself, you may not know what an executor actually does.

Who is the executor? The executor is someone you name in your Will, who is appointed by the court to handle the administration of your estate.

Does the executor handle my assets? After being appointed by the court, the executor “marshals” all of your assets – which means they control and protect them. For instance, if you had a bank account before you died, the executor closes out the bank account and places those funds in an account in the name of your estate.

Does the executor handle my real estate? Yes. The executor has the duty to preserve your real estate so that it may be sold by your estate or potentially distributed to one of your beneficiaries. Your executor will pay any necessary mortgage payments, tax payments, utilities, or other associated costs. They will also make sure the property is insured and any necessary repairs or maintenance are performed.

Does the executor pay my bills after I die? Yes. The executor pays all rightful claims against your estate. Your estate must remain open for seven months to allow possible parties with claims to come forward. The first bill the executor will make sure is paid is your funeral bill.

Does the executor have to be a professional? Many attorneys, accountants, or other professionals serve as executors, but you need not choose a professional to be your executor.

Who should I pick as my executor? You should pick someone who is organized and will work cooperatively with the attorney for the estate to ensure the administration proceeds smoothly.

Can I choose more than one executor? Yes. You can have two or more executors. You can also pick alternate executors so that if one is not available, a successor is available to do the job.

Does the executor get paid? The executor receives a statutory commission that is based on a sliding scale. For an estate of $500,000 the commission would be $x. For an estate of $1,000,000 the commission would be $y.

Do I need to tell my executor I chose them? There is no legal requirement to do so, but as a practical matter you should. That would give the person you chose the opportunity to advise you if they feel they cannot perform the job. It is also sensible to assemble a list of your assets and to advise the executor where that list is maintained.

Choosing an executor for your Last Will and Testament is something that you should do with care. If you have questions about whom you should select, please feel free to contact the estate planning attorneys at O’Connell and Aronowitz to discuss your decision.

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