Understand the responsibilities and timeline


The executor role can be incredibly challenging — and is often frustrating for those who manage it. Here are a few basics you’ll want to understand as you begin this 100+ step journey.

  • The process is complex. While some people will attempt to manage the process themselves, most find that hiring the right attorney, financial advisor, and/or accountant will dramatically simplify the role.
  • The process typically takes a year or so to complete. There will typically be a probate process, with the court system moving at its own speed, in spite of your potential desire to accelerate the process.
  • As executor, you’ll be responsible for managing the assets the deceased left behind, selling off any property, and making sure all assets are distributed according to the will and/or law. You’ll be responsible for filing one or two federal tax returns, and will have to make choices that could affect how much money ends up going toward taxes.
  • As you’re trying to work through how to manage the financial elements of the estate to safeguard the assets, minimize tax liability, and maximize the inheritances beneficiaries will receive, you will likely benefit from talking to a qualified financial advisor.
  • Beneficiaries can be impatient and will need to be managed effectively. They might not understand the scope of your responsibilities or be anxious to get their inheritance, be it money, property or family heirlooms.
  • Settling the estate can be expensive, and ultimately the money you spend on these costs will impact how much beneficiaries receive.
  • You can be reimbursed for your expenditures as an executor, but you’ll need to keep detailed records. You also have the option to collect compensation for serving as executor.
  • You have a “fiduciary duty” as an executor, which means you have a legal responsibility to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries (not yourself) in this process.

Views on executorship can vary greatly. Some executors feel honored to be given the role, while others view it as an incredibly frustrating experience. Regardless of your feelings, using a tool like Executor.org to guide you through the process can save you time, save you money, and help keep your family strong through this difficult process.