What's Involved in Being an Estate Executor?

If you're asked to serve as the executor of an estate, think carefully about the decision before accepting the position. Acting as an executor or administrator of an estate can involve a great deal of work, depending on assets and the complexity of the estate.

For example, an estate with a large investment portfolio, property in more than one state, and a major stake in a business means far more responsibility than a modest estate.

Many people agree to be named as an executor for a relative or friend — and then find they're left with a task that's more difficult and overwhelming than they expected. What's more, executors are bound by law to observe a strict standard of care in fulfilling their duties. Depending on state law, you can be held legally liable for negligent handling of the estate.

Use the list of typical executors' responsibilities below to make an informed decision about whether to agree to be named executor. Here are some possible duties that an executor must fulfill:

These are just some of the duties an executor may have to perform. Although it is an honor to be asked by a friend or relative to serve as an estate executor, don't hesitate to decline if you aren't sure you can handle the task. Perhaps as an alternative, you could serve as a co-executor with a financial professional or institution that has the expertise needed to handle some of the responsibilities.

Q. Who Can Be an Executor?

A. It depends on state law, but you generally must be over the age of 18 or 21. In most states, to be an executor a person cannot have been convicted of a felony or be considered "unsuitable" by the court.

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