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When a person dies with a will in place and no trust, an executor is named as the responsible individual for winding down the decedent’s affairs. In situations in which a will has not been prepared, and there is no trust, the probate court will appoint an administrator. Whether you have been named as an executor or administrator, the role comes with certain responsibilities including taking charge of the decedent’s assets, notifying beneficiaries and creditors, paying the estate’s debts and distributing the property to the beneficiaries.

In some cases, an executor may also be a beneficiary of the will, however he or she must act fairly and in accordance with the provisions of the will. An executor is specifically responsible for:

  • Finding a copy of the will and filing it with the appropriate state court
  • Informing third parties, such as banks and other account holders, of the person’s death
  • Locating assets and identifying debts
  • Providing the court with an inventory of these assets and debts
  • Maintaining any assets until they are disposed of
  • Disposing of assets either through distribution or sale
  • Satisfying any debts
  • Appearing in court on behalf of the estate

By filing for probate of a will or if there is not will, the executor or administrator, as the case may be, can then pay all of the decedent’s outstanding debts and distribute the property to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or, if there is no will, according to the laws of intestacy. The executor or administrator is also is also responsible for filing all federal and state tax returns for the deceased person as well as estate taxes, if any. Lastly, an executor or administrator may be entitled to compensation for the time he or she served the estate. In the end, being name an executor or appointed as an administrator ultimately means supporting the overall goal of distributing the estate assets according to wishes of the deceased or state law.  If you are named as an executor of a will, or if you feel that you are the responsible party to probate an estate without a will, contact an experienced probate or estate planning attorney at Scheniders & Associates, L.L.P. to help you carry out these duties.

By: Roy Schneider, Esq. 

About the Author
Theodore J. Schneider practices in the areas of business and corporate transactions, employment law counseling, municipal and public law, real estate and land use, and homeowner associations. Ted began his legal career in 2002 when he joined the Los Angeles office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, L.L.P. before relocating to Ventura County to join his father in practice.