When someone names you as the executor in his or her will, you also become the personal representative of his or her estate when he or she dies. You, therefore, assume responsibility for overseeing the deceased’s assets and making sure they pass to his or her heirs per the stipulations in the will.
The most important thing to remember as you go about your duties is that you must act in a fiduciary capacity. In other words, you must do everything for the benefit of the estate and its heirs, not your interests.
FindLaw explains that your specific duties as a personal representative will depend on the size and complexity of the deceased’s estate. In general, however, you can expect to do the following:
- Find the deceased’s original will, file it with the probate court and open the probate estate
- Notify all of his or her heirs and creditors of the death and the opening of the probate estate
- Collect and inventory all of his or her assets
- Cancel all of his or her open credit cards and bank accounts
- Set up an estate bank account
- Pay all legitimate claims and taxes owing
You will also manage the deceased’s assets during the probate period. This may include selling some of the assets if the estate has insufficient liquid funds with which to pay bills and taxes.
Once you have paid all the bills and other liabilities of the estate, you will need to construct a final accounting of everything that came into or went out of the estate during probate and file it with the probate court. When the probate judge approves your final accounting, he or she will permit you to close the estate.
At this point, your final duty consists of distributing the remaining estate assets to the deceased’s heirs according to the provisions of his or her will.