May 13, 2016

The Role of an Executor: What am I responsible for?

In the role of Executor, the complexity of your responsibilities will vary based on the complexity of the decedent’s assets. In general, you are responsible for sorting out the finances of the deceased, making sure debts and taxes are paid, and distributing assets to the heirs.

Here is a basic checklist to get you started, if you become an Executor:

  • Read and understand the will and living trusts and file documents with the probate court, if necessary. Note: In Washington State a will must be filed promptly following the decedents death.
  • Obtain from the courts a copy of the death certificates and letters of testamentary
  • Notify banks, credit card companies and government agencies, such as social security, of the decedent’s death Note: A copy of the death certificate is often required
  • Set up a bank account for incoming funds and pay all bills, such as mortgages, utilities, etc. that must be paid before the estate is settled
  • Decide what kind of probate is necessary Note: Probate in Washington State is entirely discretionary
  • Maintain any property until it is distributed
  • Pay taxes from the first of the current year to the date of the decedent’s death. Note: Oregon residents may be subject to state death tax (estate tax), depending on the value of the estate.
  • Distribute the assets according to the will
  • Create a plan for the sale or distribution of personal property and dispose of any additional assets/property left. You may also have to file a detailed inventory of assets to the court – this depends on the state.
  • Represent the estate in court

Remember, these are the basics and there may be other tasks depending on the size and complexity of the estate. It is also important to note that state laws are constantly changing, so confirm updated law at the time you become the executor. Below are some of the sites we referenced in providing this information and may be good resources if you are in the Washington/Oregon area.