Being real estate professionals, it’s a question we hear — and answer — rather frequently: What is an executor of an estate?
When someone passes away, typically an executor is named in the will. It becomes the executor’s duty to safeguard and eventually liquidate the estate to the satisfaction of the court, the deceased’s beneficiaries and any creditors who are owed money. It can be a long and difficult process, but it’s a fact of life and a task that many have successfully completed before you. And, there’s always help available in the form of estate attorneys, experienced Realtors, liquidation companies, etc.

Along with being asked what is an executor of an estate, we’re also often asked: What are the responsibilities of the executor?

In a nutshell, there are many, and the responsibilities can vary from state to state. Following are some of the more common responsibilities:

  • Obtain a copy of the will, read it and understand its contents and the wishes of the deceased.
  • Find, record and protect the deceased individual’s assets and property, including bank accounts and safe deposit boxes. 
  • Photograph or take a video of each room in the house for both records and reference.
  • Locate important papers and documents such as deeds, mortgages, Abstract of Title, land survey, tax information, investments, insurance policies, etc.
  • Verify that all necessary utilities such as gas, electric and water remain in service, as well as household services such as snow plowing or lawn maintenance.
  • Make arrangements for mail to be forwarded and newspapers to be cancelled. The U.S. Postal Service will forward mail for up to one year.
  • Ensure that the property looks occupied by placing timers on lights. Adding a security sticker or sign on the property may help deter burglars. New locks should be installed on all properties. The addition of an alarm system should be considered.
  • Contact any individuals named as beneficiaries in the will.
  • File the will in probate court.
  • Finalize the deceased individual’s affairs, such as cancelling credit cards, notifying banks and financial institutions, contacting Social Security, filing taxes, etc.
  • Establish a bank account for the estate, keeping any assets separate from your own and paying off debts such as credit cards, mortgage, taxes, etc.
  • Collect and deposit life insurance proceeds, if applicable.
  • Prepare statements of all transactions and pay any remaining fees tied to the estate, such as attorney fees.
  • Distribute property and assets as outlined by the laws of the state.

So, what is an executor of an estate?

It’s someone who was looked upon very highly by the individual before his or her death. It is someone with a great deal of responsibility. It is someone who should take their role very seriously. And, when the process has been completed, it is someone who can take a great deal of pride in a job well done!

While it’s true that being named an executor is a lot of work, it should also be considered an honor. If you are in this position and find it all a bit overwhelming, please remember that you can contact an estate attorney, estate liquidator or an experienced Realtor to help facilitate the process.