The executor is the person named in a will to be in charge of settling a deceased person’s financial affairs. Essentially, that means taking care of property, paying bills and taxes, and seeing to it that assets are transferred to the new rightful owners. If probate court proceedings are required, as they often are with a will, the executor is in charge or alternatively the executor must hire a lawyer.
An executor must be organized but is not required to have a law degree. If assets must go through probate court, the process involves paperwork. Most often, there are no disputes that require a decision by a judge, and the executor may never see the inside of a courtroom. An executor may even be able to settle all the affairs through the mail.
If the estate reveals many types of property, surfaces debts, significant tax liability, or there exist potential disputes among inheritors, an executor may want some help from an attorney.
An attorney, if hired, would be paid out of the estate. It is important to note that in a few states: Arkansas, California, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, and Wyoming, state law authorizes an attorney to take a certain percentage of the gross value of the deceased person’s estate unless the executor makes a written agreement calling for less.
An executor is entitled to payment. The compensation is regulated by state law and is affected by factors such as the value of the deceased person’s property and what the probate court decides is reasonable under the circumstances. The main reason most people serve as an executor is to honor the deceased person’s request.
What If I do not want to be an Executor?
An executor can accept or decline. Someone who agrees to serve as executor has the right to resign at any time. If the will named an alternate executor, that person will take over. If not, the court will appoint someone to step in.