An executor is the person appointed to administer the estate of a person who has died. The deceased will typically name an executor as part of his or her last will and testament. The executor is responsible for seeing that the wishes of the deceased are carried out in the manner that has been specified. There are a number of duties an executor must complete.
There are some general duties an executor must perform before getting into the details of the will. Typically, family members will arrange the funeral and the cremation or burial, but if for some reason they don't, the executor must take on this responsibility. He must obtain the death certificate and distribute it to creditors, banks, insurance companies, government agencies and anywhere else that may require proof of death. He must meet with the lawyers who hold the will to receive instructions and guidance. He must also locate beneficiaries to let them know that they were mentioned in the will, and review personal papers to help locate assets and debts.
Government Benefit Programs
The executor is responsible for cancelling Social Security benefits and any other government checks the deceased was receiving. He must apply for any death benefits the deceased qualified for and cancel the person's Social Security number. If the deceased was a past or current member of the military, the executor will need to contact the service branch and inquire about any pensions or benefits. The Social Security Administration website at ssa.gov has information on how to find your local office. You can also call 1-800-772-1213 for help.
Benefits Payable to Estate
If the deceased was employed, the executor must contact the employer and arrange for the estate to collect unpaid wages and any other benefits. He must also contact former employers and ask about any pensions or benefits due to the deceased, and contact insurance companies about life insurance policies.
Manage the Assets of the Estate
The executor must make a detailed list of all assets, including those held in safety deposit boxes. He must track down all bank accounts, then open an estate bank account. All cash bank accounts in the name of the deceased are consolidated into the estate account. IRAs and any other retirement accounts are not included. He must obtain statements about the value of any investments at the time of death and gather any real estate documents, deeds and mortgages to determine their value and how much is still owing.
Pay Bills of the Estate
The executor has to find all liabilities and determine the outstanding balance owed by the estate. He must settle all claims against the estate, including credit cards, mortgages and other debts. He must pay the funeral and burial invoice.
File Tax Returns
Any tax returns not yet filed must be filed, and a final tax return must be prepared. The executor might consider consulting a tax accountant to better identify opportunities for reducing the tax bill.
The executor must distribute assets to all beneficiaries as per instructions of the will. He must transfer stocks and other holdings, including cash, as well as any deeds and property titles, to the spouse or the appropriate beneficiary as mentioned in the will.