What Is an Executor of a Will?
An executor of a will is the person whose job it is to handle your estate after your death. They are responsible for paying off your debts and splitting your assets as per the wishes of your will.
The executor of a will often needs to do a lot of admin, including notifying financial institutions of your death and organizing copies of your death certificate. It is important to choose someone who is organized and reliable to be the executor of a will.
What Tasks Does an Executor of a Will Have to Do?
The tasks an executor of a will has to do will depend on the nature of the estate. The bigger and more complex the estate, the more the executor of a will has to do. Some of the tasks they may have to do are:
- Find the deceased’s last will and testament
- Get certified copies of the death certificate
- Inventory all the assets and estate
- Appear in court to represent the estate
- File income taxes for the final year
- Settle any outstanding debts using money from the estate
- Inform the insurance companies, government agencies, and creditors of the death
- Distribute assets and belongings as per the will
- Notify relatives and possible heirs of the contest period
Executor of a Will vs. Power of Attorney
What is the difference between an executor of a will and a power of attorney? Can the executor of a will be the same person as a power of attorney?
An executor of a will and a power of attorney are very different things. You can use the same person for both roles if you wish, but it is important to consider if you want to trust one person with all that responsibility.
A power of attorney is for when you are still alive but unable to make decisions for yourself. You can have one power of attorney to look after your health decisions or financial decisions. You can also have two separate power of attorneys for each of those roles.
An executor of a will looks after your estate after you die. They ensure your finances are in order and your estate is split as per the wishes of your will. An executor of a will can be a friend, family member, or a professional like an attorney or an accountant.
How to Choose Someone to Be An Executor of a Will
You should take care when choosing an executor of a will. It needs to be someone you trust to look out for your best interests and to do the work necessary to ensure your will is followed. There is a lot of paperwork involved in being an executor of a will, so it is best to pick someone who can handle the paperwork and work necessary to handle your estate. Think of someone who has good attention to detail and is diligent in completing work to a deadline.
An executor of a will should be willing to do so. Have a conversation with people in your life to figure out if they will be willing to act as your executor. Explain what being the executor of a will entails and ask if they would be yours. If you have no one willing to act as your executor or no one who would be a suitable executor, hire a professional to act as the executor of a will.
There is no special training required to be an executor of a will; the only requirements are:
- They are over the age of 18
- They are willing to act as an executor of the will
- They live close by to attend court hearings and handle the legwork of the role
- The court signs off on them acting as executor
The only person who cannot act as an executor of a will is a witness to your will. Your witnesses cannot be an executor of a will, nor can they benefit in your will.
How to Name the Executor of a Will
When you have chosen an executor of a will, you need to name them in your will. If you are using a will kit, then it will indicate the place to write the executor of a will. If a lawyer is writing your will, then you can give your attorney the name of the person you want to name as executor of a will.
When naming someone, make sure it is clear who you want. Write their full name and include an aka if they are better known by another name. You can also name more than one executor of a will or alternates in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to act as your executor. It may be many years between writing your will and your death, and circumstances may change during that time.
The person you name as an executor of a will can also be named as a beneficiary of a will. So you don’t need to worry about picking someone you don’t want to leave anything. You can leave them assets, gifts, or money in your will if you wish. It is advised that you do bequeath them something to thank them for all the work they do as an executor of a will. If you hire a professional executor of a will, then you will need to write provisions for paying their fee into your will.