What are the Duties of an Executor of a Will?

Last Updated at: Jan 13, 2020

An executor plays a crucial role in implementing the intentions of the deceased, as written in the will. An executor is, therefore, the legal representative of the deceased (the testator). He or she has been given an authority to dispose off the assets of the testator as per the will (and the codicil, if any).

Who can be an Executor?

Anyone can be an executor. It is usually one of the nominees or the person benefitting from the assets, or a third person (particularly if a dispute is otherwise likely), whom the testator trusts and would like to get involved in distributing the property over to his nominees.

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Necessity of an Executor

The last will made by a testator, with instructions to dispose off the assets as per his wishes is a most crucial document. Thus, such a will needs a representative to see it through until all the wishes are carried out, as instructed. Although, persons forget or neglect to appoint an executor, this is not the best approach, as it is possible that the wrong person may take on the role of executor (usually one or the other nominee or beneficiary).

The right to choose an executor is completely that of the testator’s. So, it is the responsibility of the testator to name a person suitable to execute the will, after his/her death.

Powers and Duties of an Executor

An executor is a representative of the testator, and is legally approved. As for the duties of an executor, it varies depending upon the conditions in the will.

The general duties include:
a.Settlement or disposing of the assets as per the requests made in the will;
b.Filing application for a probate when necessary and required (only an executor can apply for a probate and he or she needs to be in sound mind and provide supporting documents for the same);
c.Filing cases in court on behalf of the testator;
d.Managing any expenses for the management of properties left by the testator until its disposal;
e.Taking care of funeral expenses from the estate (assets) left by the testator;
f.Preparing an extensive inventory of the assets to be disposed and maintaining a record of the same;
g.Collecting any debts due to the deceased as well as paying any, from the assets left by the deceased;
h.Issuing an ascent of legacy to the nominee, wherever applicable.

Advantages of Appointing an Executor

There are several thousand cases that are pending in court, all pertaining to property issues between family members.

Such problem arises in two instances:
1. When the deceased has not left a will behind (died intestate);
2. When the will mentioned one of the brothers or a nominee as an executor.

In the first case, since no will is left behind, the court appoints an administrator to see the will through. The administrator will dispose the will as advised by the testator. An administrator is also appointed when the executor is not named in the will left by an individual.

In the second case, however, the executor is one of the nominees. Say, for instance, there are two brothers and two sisters, and all of them are nominees. If the will mentions equal portions to each nominee, the executor of the will (say, one of the sons), has the sole responsibility to deal with the disposal of assets.

While the nominee-cum-executor might do it correctly, there are several examples where the nominee and the executor disposes the assets as preferable to them. This gives rise to conflicts, and many disagreements between the nominees, and thus, brings them to court.

Hence, while making a will, it is essential to understand that an executor is a very crucial person in the execution of the will, and hence, only a third person, who is both responsible and neutral, can do the right by all the nominees in question.

Also, if no executors are appointed, the court will appoint an administrator, and the whole procedure might take more time (and money) to complete.