What's an Executor to Do?

The executor is the person named in a will to carry out the instructions outlined in the will. The executor is usually chosen by the person whose will it is. Family members who are not the executor may perform some of the executor’s duties on behalf of the executor and with the executor’s consent.

Legally, the executor, as the personal representative of the deceased, has the final say on estate-related activities. When the family members are supportive of the executor, he or she is more likely to communicate with the family and carry out their wishes.

Communication is critical to prevent misunderstandings and hurt feelings during an emotionally charged time. Occasionally, family disputes force the executor to take sides or overrule family members. It’s not a job to be taken lightly.

Did You Know?

  • If the executor has predeceased the testator or is unable or unwilling to act as co-executor, an alternate executor can take over with the court’s approval.
  • Co-executors must both agree and sign off on documents winding up the estate, unless one goes to court and has the obligation revoked.
  • If siblings didn’t get along while you were alive, they likely won’t start doing so upon your death. Carefully choose whom to appoint as your executor.
  • Executors can hire professionals to assist with the estate wind up (such as an accountant or lawyer).

If a fee is paid, it’s taxable income for the executor. If the executor receives a special bequest for winding up the estate, it is not taxable.

If you have been given the responsibility of winding up someone’s estate, use the Checklist of Executor’s Duties to help you become aware and track the things that need to be done. The following graphic outlines the duties of the executor at various stages of the execution of the will.