Why Do I Need to Name an Executor?

An executor participates in the probate process and manages assets during it. This individual has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate. This is the highest duty owed under the law.
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Written by:Tim J. Wooten

Attorney at Law

Tim has 20 years of practice experience and has wide experience with federal and state courts throughout the country in insurance coverage, insurance defense, complex litigation, construction and design, product liability, breach of contract, federal tax controversy and disputes before the IRS and U.S. Tax Court, settlements and probate, and multi-jurisdictional litigation.
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When someone dies, they leave behind an estate consisting of their assets. Someone has to manage the estate property, taking on tasks like paying creditors and ensuring that assets are distributed according to the decedent’s wishes. The executor of an estate, also called a personal representative, is the person who takes on this role, as explained in the article “What Is An Executor Of An Estate?” from Forbes.

If the deceased has a last will, it includes the name of the person who serves as their executor. However, if there is no will, or if the will doesn’t name an executor, a court will appoint someone—not necessarily a family member—to serve in this role.

The executor is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the decedent, including gathering all of the important documents, including the last will, filing any required court paperwork, managing assets until they are distributed and facilitating the transfer of money and property to beneficiaries.

In most cases, assets must pass through probate, a legal process in which the court validates the will, issues letters testamentary giving the executor the right to do their job, oversees the distribution of assets to beneficiaries and ensures that creditors are paid.

If you have an estate plan created by an experienced estate planning attorney, they will ask you to choose someone to serve as your executor. This needs to be someone you can count on to fulfill your wishes, who you trust implicitly and who you know will be able to manage submitting and completing paperwork for the court, the IRS and any other government agencies.

Can a beneficiary also be an executor? A beneficiary often does serve as the executor since many people name their spouse or adult child to act as their personal representative and manage their estate after their death.

An executor has a lot to do:

  • Obtaining a copy of the will, death certificate and other paperwork.
  • Inventorying the deceased individual’s assets, determining which passes through probate and which passes outside of probate.
  • Managing the deceased’s assets, such as paying the mortgage and utilities.
  • Submitting the will to be probated in the relevant court.
  • Notifying all parties who may have a claim against the estate.
  • Overseeing the probate process.
  • Paying any debts.
  • Facilitating the transfer of assets.
  • Filing taxes for the person’s last living year and the estate tax.

The executor often retains the services of an estate planning attorney to manage these tasks, ensuring that they are carried out properly and in a timely manner.

Reference: Forbes (Feb. 5, 2024) “What Is An Executor Of An Estate?”

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