How To Be An Executor of Someone’s Will

As seniors get older they may find that their friends or family members are asking them to take on the responsibilities of being the executor of their wills. These requests can seem out of the blue, and can feel like you are being put on the spot so it is important to have some understanding of what an executor does before agreeing to be one for a friend. 

Being an executor involves a lot of moving pieces and involves a number of complex challenges that are not for the faint of heart. While seniors want to support their close friends and family, especially when faced with the possible end of their lives, being an executor is not a role that everyone is cut out to perform. Seniors will only find heartbreak if they agree to such a role when they are not able to perform all the tasks nor are able to deal with all the paperwork and drama that sometimes can occur. 

Let us explore some common questions you might have about being asked to be an executor of a will or trust.

Do Executors Plan Funerals?

While an executor does not necessarily take on financial responsibility for the deceased’s funeral arrangements depending on what other arrangements have been made executors might need to determine how such a funeral is going to be paid for either out of the estate or out of other funds. Funerals are complex affairs that occur when those involved are in the middle of grieving and may find that making choices is challenging. Some of these moving parts can involve finding a local funeral home, arranging the program for the funeral, as well as arranging who will speak at the funeral or at the gravesite. In addition, understanding what plans someone has for their funeral can help you gain an understanding around what executing their will might look like. If someone has no plans for their funeral it may mean that other documents are also not in order.

What Do Executors Do Exactly?

The exact roles and responsibilities of an executor vary depending on the particular context but in general an executor is the person who administers a person’s estate upon their death. The primary duty is to carry out the wishes of the deceased person based on instructions spelled out in their will or trust documents, ensuring that assets are distributed to the intended beneficiaries. This involves a wide skill set including financial knowledge, understanding the tax code, knowledge around selling a house or other assets, and communicating with a wide range of groups and individuals who may or may not be forthcoming with information. Executors are required to end up wearing many different hats over the course of their work.

What Mistakes Do Executors Make?

Being an executor requires a large amount of financial and tax code knowledge. Even the best intentioned executor can find themselves making mistakes that open them up to financial costs or even lawsuits. There are a number of mistakes that executors can fall into such as paying bills in the wrong order, mishandling real estate, or losing tangible assets. Being an executor can be complicated even for experts so being asked to be an executor without such background is only going to lead to legal complications. If you do not have working knowledge of the law you might want someone more qualified to step in to help you navigate the process.

What Challenges Might Executors Face?

Even if the deceased has all their will or trust documents in order, being an executor can still be a challenge. For example, one challenge is disputes with co-executors that arise when they have different levels of knowledge or understanding about their roles. Another challenge is disputes with heirs, because when processing the loss of a family member heirs sometimes fall back on old family conflicts or want to do something different from what the will or trust dictates, and struggle to understand why legally they can’t do that. Being an executor is also a major time drain and even relatively simple estates can take months and sometimes years to execute. Finally being an executor means someone might face personal liability exposure or have to pay out-of-pocket costs they were not expecting to pay. No one should agree to be an executor unless they understand the possible challenges they might face and feel like they can handle them.