When a friend or loved one asks you to act as the executor of their estate, it would be hard to say no. However, as just about anyone who has worked in estate administration and probate can tell you, most who say yes have no idea what they are committing themselves to.
The very first thing an executor must do is accept the appointment. Then, all heirs, trustees, and creditors of the decedent must be notified that a probate matter has commenced. They will each have their own deadlines by which a claim against the estate must be filed.
While waiting for those claims or waivers to come in, the executor must perform a complete inventory of the estate assets. These include physical assets, such as homes and vehicles, as well as things like bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. A completed inventory list must be submitted to the probate court no later than 91 days from acceptance of the executor appointment. Once creditor claims start to roll in, the executor is also responsible for paying those outstanding bills from estate funds. A new bank account for the estate will need to be opened and all estate funds must be placed into it for full accountability prior to disbursements and closing.
There are a multitude of issues that can arise throughout the administration of an estate. It is highly recommended that anyone considering accepting an appointment as executor take the time to meet with a probate attorney. An attorney can fully explain all duties and requirements, so that an informed decision can be made.