You may find that you have been named as executor (executrix if you are female) of your parents’ will. After reading the duties below, you may not want the job. It is a tiring, time-consuming, and frequently a thankless responsibility that you may want to resign from– and certainly have the right to do so.

Some of the more important duties and responsibilities of being an executor include:

  • Find the latest will and read it.
  • File a petition with the court to probate the will.
  • Assemble all the decedent’s assets.
  • Take possession of safe deposit box contents.
  • Consult with banks and savings and loans in the area to find all accounts of the deceased. Also check for cash and other valuables hidden around the home.
  • Transfer all securities to your name (as executor) and continue to collect dividends and interest on behalf of the heirs of the deceased.
  • Find, inventory and protect household and personal effects and other personal property.
  • Collect all life insurance proceeds payable to the estate.
  • Find and inventory all real estate deeds, mortgages, leases and tax information. Provide immediate management for rental properties.
  • Arrange ancillary administration for out-of-state property.
  • Collect monies owed the deceased and check interests in estates of other deceased persons.
  • Find and safeguard business interests, valuables, personal property, important papers, the residence, etc.
  • Inventory all assets and arrange for appraisal of those for which it is appropriate.
  • Determine liquidity needs. Assemble bookkeeping records. Review investment portfolio. Sell appropriate assets.
  • Pay valid claims against the estate. Reject improper claims and defend the estate, if necessary.
  • Pay state and federal taxes due.
  • File income tax returns for the decedent and the estate.
  • Determine whether the estate qualifies for special use valuation under IRC Sec. 2032A, the qualified family-owned business interest deduction under IRC Sec. 2057 or deferral of estate taxes under IRC Sees. 6161 or 6166.
  • If the surviving spouse is not a U.S. citizen, consider a qualified domestic trust to defer the payment of federal estate taxes.
  • File federal estate tax return and state death and/or inheritance tax return.
  • Prepare statement of all receipts and disbursements. Pay attorney’s fees and executor’s commissions. Assist the attorney in defending the estate, if necessary.
  • Distribute specific bequests and the residue; obtain tax releases and receipts as directed by the court.
  • Establish a testamentary trust (or pour over into a living trust), where appropriate.

If you find the task to be too over-whelming, talk to your parents about it if you can. Examine their wills to see if anyone is named as an alternate and discuss these duties with that person. You may even find that the person(s) named as executor are no longer living; or they may have named a bank trust department with which they no longer do business.  If you feel it is a duty that you can and want to do, be sure to contact a qualified lawyer in your parents’ state of residence to help you in the process.