What is an Executor?
An executor administers the distribution of an estate to beneficiaries.
How Does an Executor Work?
A will is a legal document that indicates how a person wants his or her estate (money and property) to be distributed after death. A will also may describe any wishes for funeral and burial arrangements and may designate guardians for minor children.
When the testator (the person who created the will) dies, the executor, who is named in the will, administers the distribution of the estate to the beneficiaries (a beneficiary is any person or organization that receives the assets after the testator's death). The executor's job also includes paying any bills and taxes owed by the estate as well as locating and protecting the assets until they are distributed. An executor often receives payment for his or her services, and the payment varies from state to state.
A testator can change a will at any time for any reason and should keep the original copy of the will in a safe place. A copy should be given to the executor.
Why Does an Executor Matter?
A will is central to a person's estate planning. In most cases, people create wills to protect the assets they have worked hard for and to ensure they are passed to appropriate individuals or organizations. The exector's job is to honor those wishes.
However, court procedures called probate are often required to pass assets from a testator to beneficiaries because the testator is no longer around to sign deeds and other documents necessary to transfer the assets. In probate, a judge must validate the will and then issue a court order to distribute the assets. The probate process can last from six months to two years or more and can cost from 4% to more than 9% of the gross value of the estate, depending on the laws of the testator's home state. Everything in a will becomes public record after it is probated.
Estate planning is a complex subject, and it is of particular importance to consult an estate-planning specialist when considering how to distribute assets after death.