What Does the Executor of a Will Do to Carry Out the Provisions of a Will?
If you are named as the executor of a will, what will you be called to do when the testator (the person who wrote the will) passes? Attorney Philip Hundl answers that question in this article. Executor is the male and also the gender neutral word for the person named to carry out the provisions of a will. Executrix is the word used for a female executor.
Question: I am named as Executor in my mother’s Will. She just passed away. What am I supposed to do?
Attorney Philip Hundl’s response. As the designated executor in your mother’s Will, you may file an application to probate your mother’s Will. First, I suggest locating your mother’s original Will. Often times a decedent’s original Will is either at their home in a fire-proof box or in a safety deposit box at the decedent’s bank. If the bank does not allow you access to your mother’s safety deposit box, you will have to ask the probate court (in the county in which you intend to probate your mother’s will) for an order allowing you to inspect the safety deposit box for the limited purpose of finding the original Will.
Once you have obtained the original Will, an application to probate the Will must be filed in the probate court and notice posted at the courthouse. After the notice has been post for at least ten days, a hearing may be held in the probate court to probate the Will. At the hearing, you will also be named as executor and be asked to sign an oath stating that you will fulfill your duties as executor of the estate. You will be entitled to “letters testamentary” issued by the county clerk authorizing you to do your job as executor. The letters testamentary document your authority to close financial accounts or sell real estate. As executor, your duty will be to figure out what your mother owned, take control of all those assets as executor, pay off her debts and then distribute her property according to the terms and provisions of her Will.
Within 30 days of receiving the letters testamentary, your lawyer will prepare a “notice to creditors” and arrange for it to be published in a local newspaper. This notice is designed to let your mother’s creditors know where they can file claims to recover money they may be owed. This notice must be published even if your mother had no creditors.
Later, your attorney will prepare an inventory (with your assistance) listing all of your mother’s assets that passed under her Will. The inventory may be only a partial listing of her total estate, as it will not list non-probate assets that pass directly to named beneficiaries or out-of-state land. For example, your mother may have life insurance, retirement plans, or certain types of joint bank or brokerage accounts that pass directly to named beneficiaries. After the inventory is filed, the judge will sign an order approving the inventory.
After all taxes and debts have been paid, accounts have been liquidated and properties sold, you will then be able to distribute your mother’s estate according to the terms of her Will.
Attorney Philip J. Hundl is a shareholder at the law firm of Wadler, Perches, Hundl & Kerlick. Attorney’s note: The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Readers with legal problems, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult attorneys for advice on their particular circumstances.