Being appointed as executor of someone's will is an honor and privilege; only the most trusted of family members or friends are chosen to bear that responsibility. As executor, you must display the highest level of fairness, discretion, and honesty when dealing with the estate of the deceased. In basic terms, the executor acts as a personal representative of the deceased, and your primary responsibilities are to distribute the assets of the estate, to oversee the probate process, and to ensure that the estate continues to operate during the probate process. For a simple overview of executor duties, read below.


Not everyone has the time or skills to properly manage the estate of a deceased friend or family member. This job can be challenging and time consuming, so careful thought should go into your decision. In worst-case scenarios, judges will remove a bad executor from the probate case. Additionally, mismanagement of the estate could result in a lawsuit by involved parties.

Gather Important Documents

Make sure you have on hand the following documents:

  • The will
  • Death certificates (you will need to order several copies)
  • Insurance policies (life, burial, etc).
  • Trusts
  • Bank account documentation (savings, checking)
  • Safe deposit box documentation
  • Property deeds
  • Retirement, pension, and investment account documentation
  • Veterans Administration and Social Security information
  • Tax returns for the past year

Other Duties

1.  Ensure that funds or insurance is available for burial and funeral expenses.

2.  Determine the distribution of property to beneficiaries.

3.  With the help of an estate attorney, ensure that the will is filed with the probate court. In some states, notices to parties with a potential for claims against the estate are published in a local newspaper.

4.  Spend some time reviewing the deceased's financial affairs, such as going through personal papers and making a list of bills and debts. Caution: Make sure you consult with the estate attorney before actually paying any bills; some bills should be paid and some must wait for probate to conclude.

5.  File the deceased's income taxes, if due.

6.  Most Social Security payments are now made directly to the recipient's bank account. Notifying the Social Security Administration as soon as possible about the decedent's death should be a first priority, since any over-payments must be paid back.

7.  Use your supply of death certificates to notify banks, Medicare and heath insurance companies, credit card companies, etc., of the death.

8.  Lastly, work closely with other family members during the process of the distribution of assets. Sensitivity and discretion should be employed to ensure that the decedent's wishes are carried out.

Being named an executor doesn't have to be overwhelming. Make sure that you have the help of an estate attorney like Stuart W. Moskowitz, Esq., CPA to guide you through the process in a successful manner.