What Is The Role Of An Executor In A Will?

In Virginia, the executor of your will is more commonly known as the “personal representative.” Whether this person is called an executor, a personal representative, or an administrator, their duties regarding your will are the same. There are basically three categories of responsibility for the executor:

  • Manage the estate assets: This includes your house, car, personal property inside the home, and bank accounts.
  • Pay the estate’s debts and expenses: This includes your medical bills, credit card bills, and taxes.
  • Distribute the estate’s assets: Once all debts and expenses are paid, then the executor can pass on your assets to your beneficiaries according to the terms of the will.

Within each of these categories, there are specific duties that your executor must fulfill with specific time frames and deadlines that vary from one jurisdiction to another. That’s why every executor needs an attorney who knows all the requirements in Virginia and can help you through these tasks.

Executorship Step-by-Step

If you are the executor of a will, your duties will begin almost immediately upon that person’s death. It is your responsibility to see that the decedent’s wishes regarding their estate are carried out as they have specified in their will.

  1. Notifications: If you do not already have a copy of the will, you must get one and ensure everyone listed in the will is notified. You should also notify Social Security, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and any other government agencies. Also, notify any banks, credit card companies, mortgage companies, etc., even though those accounts do not have to be paid off now. It is a good idea to get several certified copies of the death certificate because many agencies will require an official copy. The funeral director often helps with this.
  2. Secure The Estate’s Assets: This includes tasks such as securing the home and arranging for the care of dependents and pets. You should also set up an estate bank account for the estate’s funds, keeping it separate from your own accounts. As executor, you should create an inventory of all the estate’s assets, including the decedent’s house, car, property inside the house, and bank accounts. This inventory should include the appraised market value of all these assets.
  3. Determine How the Will Should Be Executed: In Virginia, a will must go through probate, a process that verifies the validity of a will and transfers the title of assets to the beneficiaries. If the decedent had a trust, you can avoid probate. Depending upon the size and complexity of the estate, probate can take a long time and require the estate to pay many fees, taxes, and other expenses.
  4. Pay Any Outstanding Bills and Income Taxes: As executor, you must continue to pay any regular bills, such as the mortgage, credit card bills, car payments, property tax bills, etc. You must also file the decedent’s final federal and state income taxes and pay any taxes owed. If the decedent is entitled to a refund, that money goes into the estate’s account.
  5. Distribute Assets: After all outstanding payments are made, the executor can distribute the decedent’s assets as delineated in the will. This includes real estate, money, and non-financial assets.
  6. Close All Outstanding Accounts: This includes checking accounts, saving accounts, credit cards, investments such as IRAs and other retirement accounts, and any lines of credit. You must continue to make mortgage payments until the estate is completely settled or you have fulfilled the decedent’s wishes regarding their home.
  7. Ensure Transparency: An important responsibility of the executor is to keep detailed accounting records of all transactions you perform on behalf of the estate. In some cases, you might have to submit this record in probate court proceedings.

How We Can Help You

Being the executor of an estate, whether large or small, can be a daunting task. At Jennifer Porter Law, PLLC, we have the knowledge and experience to guide you through the process and ensure that your decedent’s wishes are fulfilled. 

If you are an executor of an estate in Virginia, contact us at (571) 532-9070 or online at jenniferporterlaw.com to schedule a consultation.