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Duties of an executor for your estate

The choice of an executor is one of the many considerations you will need to address as you plan your estate. This choice deserves as much careful planning and thought as the other provisions in your will.

Legally, you can choose almost any adult to act as your executor, including beneficiaries, family members or outside professionals. However, this position requires the appointee to fulfill a variety of duties. When deliberating on your choice, consider your candidate's ability and willingness to handle these duties competently.

Initiating probate

First, the executor starts the process by taking the will to the probate court. The court must then officially appoint the executor after a hearing, which the beneficiaries may choose to waive in the interests of saving time. If the will does not name an executor, the court will need to appoint an administrator.

The executor may also need to post a bond to protect the beneficiaries from losses that may occur if the executor intentionally or accidentally mishandles the assets. The testator may opt to include a provision in the will stating the executor does not have to post the bond. 

Administering the estate

Next, the executor must proceed to identify and inventory the estate's assets. Especially for high-asset estates with various types of assets, this can be a lengthy and complex process that often includes obtaining appraisals. The executor submits the inventory to the court. Until distribution, the executor will also handle the estate's assets and act in good faith to prevent a loss in value. When the estate includes assets such as businesses or investment portfolios, this task may necessitate specialized knowledge and experience. 

The executor must also identify and settle the estate's outstanding liabilities, including tax obligations. This includes publishing a proper notice to creditors, confirming the validity of any claims and potentially selling off assets to pay debts. Finally, the executor distributes the estate in accordance with the will and submits an accounting to the probate court.

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