When does the role of an executor begin?

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2023 | Estate Planning

Being appointed an executor of an estate can be a significant responsibility. When the testator dies, you will manage their estate and distribute it to heirs. But when will you assume your duties?

Here is what you should know:

Immediately after the testator dies

Most executor duties commence when the will goes to probate. However, there are exceptions – you may need to assume your responsibilities when the testator dies. This includes registering the death, setting up funeral arrangements and paying reasonable funeral expenses. You may also take steps to care for and preserve the deceased’s estate before the will is probated.

After the will goes to probate, you will assume other duties, including: 

  • Notifying interested parties the will is in probate 
  • Valuing the estate or taking steps to liquidate assets
  • Paying the deceased’s debts, including taxes 
  • Distributing the remainder of the estate

Since these duties are crucial, it may be best to keep interested parties reasonably informed lest they suspect you of misconduct. 

Can anyone stop you from assuming your duties?

Generally speaking, the court will usually follow the decedent’s wishes when it comes to officially appointing you as the executor of the estate unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise. 

You can, however, decline the appointment, which some people do because they feel like the job is more than they can handle, they have health problems, they live too far away or numerous other reasons. In addition, if you accept the appointment but later fail to uphold your fiduciary duties, the deceased’s heirs can ask the court to replace you.

An executor’s job is pretty big, but there is legal guidance available.