Being executor of relative’s will can be a challenge


Dear Savvy Senior: My aunt recently asked me to be the executor of her will when she dies. I’m flattered that she asked, but I’m not sure what exactly the job entails. What can you tell me about this? 

Inquiring Niece

Dear Inquiring: Serving as the executor of your aunt’s estate may seem like an honor, but it can also be a lot of work. Here’s what you should know to help you prepare for this job.

As the executor of your aunt’s will, you’re essentially responsible for winding up her affairs after she dies. While this may sound simple enough, you need to be aware that the job can be time-consuming and difficult depending on the complexity of her financial and family situation. Some of the duties required include:

>> Filing court papers to start the probate process (this is generally required by law to determine the will’s validity).

>> Taking an inventory of everything in her estate.

>> Using her estate’s funds to pay bills, including taxes, funeral costs, etc.

>> Handling details like terminating her credit cards and notifying banks and government agencies like Social Security and the post office of her death.

>> Preparing and filing her final income tax returns.

>> Distributing assets to the beneficiaries named in her will.

Be aware that each state has specific laws and timetables on an executor’s responsibilities. Your state or local bar association may have an online law library that details the rules and requirements. The American Bar Association website also offers guidance on how to settle an estate. Go to and type in “guidelines for individual executors and trustees” in the search bar to find it.

Get organized

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