Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Overview of an Executor's Role

Images-1Forbes offers a basic explanation of an executor's role as a starting point for anyone who has been named an executor.  An executor or personal representative is charged with carrying out the wishes of the deceased person.  Typically, an executor offers the will for probate, protects the assets of the estate, distributes property to beneficiaries and pays the debts and taxes of the estate. In all duties, it is important for an executor to pay close attention to detail and engage in a careful, deliberative process.  Forbes also suggests that an executor consult a knowledgable estate planning attorney with any concerns.

See Bernard A. Krooks, Understanding the Role and Responsibilities of an Executor, Forbes, Feb. 14, 2013. 


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Just a few more thoughts on the executors role when it comes to dividing up "stuff" - It's easy to divide up cash, stocks, CD's - those things that are "money". The hard part is dividing up the non-money items like furniture, jewelry, paintings and pictures. Most of the arguments between and among beneficiaries are due to what's called the "envy factor". Someone feels slighted because they think that they got less than someone else. The envy factor doesn't happen when dividing up money because everyone can clearly see what’s fair and what’s not.

For example if there are 4 beneficiaries to share equally and the estate has $40,000 in cash, that’s $10,000 to each beneficiary. Not much to quarrel about there. But what if the 4 beneficiaries are left a dining room table, a sofa, 3 TV’s, paintings and jewelry? How do you split that fairly? Sure, you could get an appraiser, value each item and go from there however there are cost and logistics involved (and how do you agree on an appraiser?)

Fair math is a good approach – for those types of items that can’t be divided equally but can be divided fairly. It’s like the old – “my piece of cake isn’t as big as yours is” problem – 2 people can get a fair share of a piece of cake if one of them cuts and the other chooses. That way the person cutting tries to make the most even division possible because the other person gets to choose the piece of cake.

There are plenty of little things that the executor needs to do when closing an estate; cancel insurance, credit cards, maintaining the house, selling the house, paying bills - it can get a little overwhelming especially if one hasn't done it before.

Posted by: Kurt Grube | Feb 18, 2013 2:04:51 PM

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