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What is an executor's role in estate administration?

When Massachusetts residents are creating their estate plans, one of the most important decisions they have to make is who to appoint as the executor of their estate.  In making this crucial choice, it may be helpful to understand the role that an executor plays in estate administration.  Here is an overview of an executor's responsibilities.

The first thing an executor will need to do is locate the decedent's will and file a petition with the court to begin the probate.  Once the will is admitted to probate and the executor is formally appointed by the court, he or she will need to locate all of the assets owned by the decedent at the time of death.  Once located, he or she must keep them safe and manage them until they are distributed in accordance with the will. 

This person will also be responsible for paying any of the estate's debts and any taxes owed.  The value of the estate will also need to be assessed to determine whether federal and/or state tax returns need to be filed, and if so, the executor may will need to have those returns prepared and filed.  The court will also require certain documents to be filed.  After all of the executor's duties are complete and distributions are made in accordance with the will and under the court's supervision, the estate may be closed.

Knowing what an executor's duties are in estate administration could make a Massachusetts resident's decision easier.  Fortunately, it is not necessary for whoever is chosen to understand the law, since he or she may hire the professional assistance necessary to fulfill his or her duties.  Before making a choice about an executor, however, it is typically a good idea for the testator to make sure the individual is willing to take on the responsibility.

Source: FindLaw, "Checklist: The Executor's Role", , Oct. 12, 2014

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