Being an executor for someone else's estate is a big responsibility, but it is also an honor. When someone names you as an executor, it means that the individual trusts you with his or her very last acts on this earth. The person believe you will honestly and lawfully abide by both the letter and spirit of one's wishes when handling estate matters, which includes paying debts and disbursing assets to heirs.
When you are working to settle an estate, it can be easy to become overwhelmed. Not only do you have to take certain actions in certain order, but you might also become aware of information about the person and his or her financial situation that you never knew before. Working with an experienced estate professional can help you get through the process without making mistakes or becoming unduly stressed.
In most cases, executors have four primary duties with regard to an estate. First, they must pay expenses associated with the estate, including open debts, administrative expenses and funeral expenses. The executor must also locate all assets of the estate and hold the assets in trust until they are distributed to heirs of the estate.
An executor also takes care of any tax issues related to the estate, which might include a final income tax form for the deceased as well as income and other tax forms and payments for the estate itself. Finally, the executor follows the directions of the will in distributing assets among heirs and beneficiaries.
The executor can run into a number of challenges along the way, one of them being disputes among heirs. Luckily, there are legal provisions for such disputes, so the executor is not usually put in a position of making judgments between heirs.
Source: Forbes, "What An Executor Of An Estate Needs To Do," Judith D. Grimaldi and Joanne Seminara, accessed Jan. 15, 2016