Berman & Asbel, LLP

Understanding the duties of an executor

When Pennsylvania residents are asked to be the executor under a person's will, they may have questions as to what this important duty involves. As there are several important legal responsibilities attached to such a role, people should make sure that they are both willing and capable of performing the variety of tasks.

An executor is the personal representative of the testator, and he or she must be organized, reasonably good with finances and willing to work both with the testator and the named heirs. The executor can actually face legal action if mistakes are made. While this is rare, experts advise that an executor communicate openly with the heirs and avoid seeking any personal profit, aside from the commission, related to their position.

Knowing where the will is kept is important for the executor, though it is not necessary that to know what it contains. The testator may keep information secret from the executor, but the executor will need to be able to access the will after the testator dies.

After the testator's death, the executor has many jobs to perform. The estate's assets must be distributed under the terms of the will after the executor has taken care of outstanding debts and taxes. The executor may handle the funeral arrangements. There may also be other responsibilities, such as placing newspaper ads to notify creditors that the testator has died, having assets appraised and preparing for filing of both the testator's final income tax return as well as filing the appropriate estate tax return.

An executor is a key figure in the probate process. Those who are unsure about how to perform one or more of their duties may want to obtain the advice and counsel of an estate administration attorney.

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