What Does the Executor of an Estate Do?


The executor of an estate has the responsibility to see that the instructions in the deceased’s will are carried out. The executor pays all the debts and taxes owed by the estate. He then disposes the remaining property according to the instructions left in the will. While the executor does not have to be a lawyer, he has a responsibility to act in an honest and diligent manner.

Locate Assets and Documents

The executive is charged with finding all of the assets belonging to the deceased. This could include property, cash, stocks and any other items of value. The assets must be kept safe until they are distributed according to the instructions in the will. The executor should also try to locate documents such as a marriage certificate, property deeds, vehicle titles, military discharge papers and life insurance policies.

Probate the Will

The executive needs to determine if it is necessary to probate the will. This is a process of obtaining court approval regarding the will validity. The decision to probate is typically determined by state law and by the value of the estate.

Locate Beneficiaries

The executive must make a good faith effort to locate all of the beneficiaries that are named in a will. This can include making telephone calls, sending certified letters and placing advertisements in newspapers. All attempts to locate beneficiaries should include the name and contact information for the executor so the beneficiary will know who to contact.


The executive should obtain copies of the death certificate so that appropriate notifications can be made regarding the death. This might include closing credit card accounts, notifying Medicare, Social Security or the Veteran’s Administration, contacting banks and any company that the deceased had financial business with.

Set Up Estate Checking Account

By setting up a checking account in the estate’s name, the executive can pay off valid debts such as open credit card statements and any necessary continuing expenses such as mortgage payments and insurance. The checking account can also be used to pay for funeral expenses and any taxes that are due on the estate, including filing personal income taxes for the year of death.

Distribute Assets

After all debts are paid, the executor then distributes the remaining assets according to the instructions left in the will. If the executor locates property that is not named in the will, then the executor is required to distribute it based upon state laws. If it is necessary to value property before distribution, the executor can hire a qualified appraiser.

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