The main resource in many individuals' estate plans is a will. A necessary element in every will is an executor. The executor of a will is an individual appointed by a court or named in the document as the individual responsible for the deceased's final financial obligations. Immediate family members are typically named as executors. This may include children, spouses and parents. Although taking care of an individual's final financial obligations may not seem difficult, being an executor means being responsible for everything from taxes and bills to disposing of property.
After an individual passes away, an executor will likely perform several duties as a part of finalizing an estate. The executor may begin by making any required court appearances for the estate and paying bills and taxes associated with the estate and its property. During this time, the executor may also be responsible for maintaining the estate's property until all issues are settled. After the required debts are paid, the executor will also be responsible for distributing the estate's assets according to the deceased's wishes.
If the individual named as executor does not wish to serve as executor, they may choose to decline the responsibility. This typically does not happen as most executors are usually immediate family members. However, in the event an executor wishes to resign their duty or decline it altogether, a court may appoint a replacement executor to act on their behalf.
Executors may perform their duties at a fee chargeable to the estate. This amount is typically set by state law and in conjunction with what probate court determines is reasonable. As many executors are immediate family members, most choose to perform their duties free of charge.
The executor of a fairly straightforward will may not need additional legal assistance carrying out their duties. However, complex wills or states that have significant tax liabilities may require the help of an attorney.