As the executor of an estate, you are responsible for managing the affairs of a testator, i.e., someone who made a will, following his or her death.
Most people know that this involves distributing the testator’s assets to heirs according to directions provided in the will. However, this is only part of your responsibilities as the executor. The American Bar Association describes some of your other responsibilities.
File income tax returns
At the end of the tax year in which the testator died, you must file income tax returns on behalf of his or her estate. If applicable, assets contained in the estate must go to pay any balance owed.
Pay outstanding debts
In addition to taxes, there may be other debts that the estate owes. Some of these you need to pay right away. For debts that are lower priority, you need to contact the creditors and explain the reason for the delay.
There are also expenses related to the administration of the estate. It is your responsibility to pay these using assets included in the estate itself.
It is only after taking care of all of these responsibilities that you can fund bequests, i.e., distribute property according to the directions provided in the will. It may not be possible to fulfill all the provisions if paying debts and handling other required expenses exhausted the estate’s assets. You could be personally liable for failing to fulfill your responsibilities or otherwise mishandling estate assets. Therefore, you must take the responsibility to become an executor very seriously, know what it requires of you and ask for help if necessary.