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What Is a Will Executor?

A will executor is someone who handles certain affairs, such as the division of an estate, after a person dies. Will executors have been appointed by the deceased person (“decedent”) before death in order to make clear who should handle these affairs. Will executor duties may be carried out during a probate proceeding or during other proceedings such as small estate proceedings. Will executors for seniors are specifically named in the decedent’s will. On this page, you will learn more about will executor duties and responsibilities.

What are the will executor’s role and responsibilities?

“What is a will executor?” is an important question for any person who owns property. Senior will executors are persons appointed to be responsible for a decedent’s property (i.e., his or her estate). There are many responsibilities of a will executor, but they are all wrapped up in the larger idea that the executor should act in the interest of the decedent’s wishes above his or her own interests regarding the estate in question. This is why it is important choose a will executor carefully. The estate executor must, as his or her title implies, execute the wishes of the decedent as written in the decedent’s will. This executor should act on behalf of the decedent until all duties are carried out. There are three specific responsibilities of a will executor, but in general these responsibilities are related to paying off debts, handling taxes and handling properties and assets. You can find the three responsibilities detailed in our free guide.

Estate executors may be appointed by a probate court in some cases. The will executor will be appointed by the court at the beginning at the probate period, which is opened within a few months after the decedent passes away. The estate administrator may be a number of different people:

  • The executor may be a spouse who survives the decedent.
  • The executor may be a parent, sibling or child.
  • The executor may be an attorney appointed by the decedent.
  • The executor may be any other person specifically named in the decedent’s will.

A will executor or other decedents should receive papers from the court authorizing them to handle the affairs of the decedent. Senior will executors cannot handle tax issues related to the decedent without these papers. After receiving papers from the court, the person in charge of the will executor role should gather all assets of the decedent together and distribute them as necessary. The first step for an executor in any probate situation is to report on the decedent’s assets and debt in full. In some cases, the will executor may need to seek help from a third party to appraise certain assets. A person performing the senior will executor role should also document all claims against the estate from all known creditors.

Will executor duties also consist of filing taxes for the decedent. A will executor should handle taxes for both the decedent and the decedent’s estate, which are considered separate for taxing purposes. Therefore, the executor may be required to file a number of different tax returns to handle taxes for the decedent and the estate separately. Estate executors for seniors will need to file specific tax forms for the year of the decedent’s death (and any other outstanding years). If the decedent received income for any amount of time during a calendar year, the executor will likely have to file a tax return for that year.

The responsibilities of a will executor also include filing taxes for the estate. In order to perform will executor duties for the decedent’s estate, the executor should file a separate tax return. Estates have unique tax identification numbers, called employer identification numbers (EINs), and estate administrators will need to know the number of the estate in question before filing taxes. Executors will also need to know what counts as income for an estate rather than the decedent individually.

A will executor can often find much of the information they need by referring to the past personal records of the decedent. For example, the IRS can be a particularly helpful resource for a will administrator during the filing of taxes after a death. A will executor can reach out to the IRS to receive the decedent’s income documents from past years as well as previously filed tax returns, which often contain information critical to a person fulfilling the duties of a will executor.

Other responsibilities of a will executor include paying off debts. Many states require will executors for seniors to pay off debts within a certain frame of time. Many courts will also require executors to pay for funeral expenses and other such expenses before allowing assets to be distributed to relatives and others outside of the main responsibilities of the executor.

In summary, will executors are charged with handling the affairs of a decedent faithfully, in accordance with their written will. There are many responsibilities of a will executor, including paying off debts and handling taxes. Learn more about the responsibilities of a will executor by downloading our guide today.