|Responsibilities of an Executor
As executor, your first duty is to initiate probate, the formal process of proving the authenticity of the deceased person's will and confirming your assignment as executor. You'll need to file an application to appear before the probate court. The application form is available from the clerk of the probate court (found in the government listings of your local telephone directory). To help you perform your duties, you may want to consult an attorney. Attorney's fees are generally chargeable to the estate as expenses of administration. Next, you need to notify all parties named as beneficiaries that you have applied to the court to process the will.
When you appear in probate court you'll need the original signed will and a certified copy of the death certificate. You should also be prepared to pay court costs, which are chargeable to the estate. The job of the probate court is to decide the validity of the will, generally a routine affair. However, this is also the time when parties may challenge or contest the will. A person who challenges a will, or part of a will, must file an objection with the court within a specified amount of time (check your state laws). Challenges to wills can be time-consuming and costly to the estate.
Once the will is determined to be valid by the probate court, you may begin to pay taxes and other claims against the estate and distribute assets to the beneficiaries. If the will is found to be invalid, you must proceed as though there was no will. An administrator will be appointed by the appropriate court to handle the estate. Creditors and taxes must be paid, after which the remainder of the estate, if any, is distributed in accordance with state law.
Your last step is to finalize the estate by filing papers with the probate court. This usually involves providing the court with copies of notices to concerned parties, tax returns and bills paid. The executor must also provide evidence of distribution of the remaining assets, such as signed receipts from the beneficiaries. When the court recognizes the completion of the probate process, you are released from further responsibility as executor.