7 Steps to Consider as Executor of a Will

Jeff McClenning |

Your job as executor of a will

Most of us have watched movies or read books that depict a lawyer reading the will in front of the family. Script writers add to the drama by highlighting the reaction of those who receive and those who have been left out of the will.  Hollywood dramatics aside, it’s an outdated depiction.

Instead, the executor of the will makes sure the wishes of the deceased are carried out.  The executor is the fiduciary for the estate, acts in the best interests of the estate, and executes the provisions of the will.


Steps to consider as you fulfill your duty as executor

  1. Meet with family members.  Potential heirs may have no idea what is in the will. In addition, the executor compiles and catalogs all the assets, debts, accounts, and guardians that are in the will.


  1. And keep the lines of communication open with heirs.  This is a difficult time for those who have just lost a loved one, and emotions may be running high.  The testator, who is the person that writes the will, is conveying his or her wishes through the will.  Cash, bonds, or stocks may have little emotional appeal for the heirs.  But the testator’s decision to convey his or her wishes prior to passing regarding treasured heirlooms may help avoid disagreements that can sometimes get out of hand.


  1. File the copy of the will with probate court.  Most states will require that the executor submit a list of all the assets that were owned by the decedent.


  1. Advise various agencies.  Alert credit card companies, government agencies including Social Security, banks, and investment firms that the individual has passed away.


  1. Consider opening an account in the estate’s name.  Federal and state income taxes, any estate taxes, and bills must be paid.  This won’t happened overnight. Please exercise patience.


  1. Consider the assistance of a professional.  This depends on the complexity of the estate.  Large estates may owe taxes or legal documents may need to be filed, which in many cases, is outside the expertise of the executor.  Notably, assets with beneficiaries such as bank accounts, IRAs, and life insurance policies skip probate.


  1. Transfer the assets to the heirs.  Don’t lose sight of your goal – transferring assets to the rightful heirs.


I trust you’ve found this review to be educational and helpful. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any matters, please feel free to give me or any of my team members a call.