What Are the Duties of an Executor?

Has a loved one named you as the executor (or “personal representative”, in Colorado)of their Last Will and Testament? If so, you may wonder what your probate responsibilities will be. As the executor you will protect all assets, pay all debts, and pass inheritances to beneficiaries.

You must be honest, impartial and follow the letter of the law. You will have the guidance of your probate attorney throughout the process. Before you even contact an attorney, however, you should find and list all estate assets, debts, accounts, properties, and guardians or beneficiaries listed in the Last Will and Testament. Once you have a good picture of the entire estate, you can determine, with the help of an attorney, if the holdings are small enough for a shorter, simpler version of probate.

Once probate is open, you will have some estate maintenance duties. This includes paying regular bills, such as mortgages, upkeep of estate property, and notifying all necessary agencies, account holders and bill collectors of the deceased’s passing.

You will also need to open a bank account in the name of the estate. This account will be used to pay all bills, attorney fees, court fees, and taxes. You must be very meticulous about your bookkeeping in order to maintain the integrity of the estate and to be fair to all beneficiaries.

Did you know you are also responsible for all taxes? You must file and pay income taxes for the deceased’s final year as well as for any years after that the estate earns money while probate is open. You will also be responsible for paying all state and federal estate taxes.

Once all bills, taxes and court costs have been paid and the court or your attorney give you the go-ahead, you may distribute estate holdings to the correct beneficiaries. Be certain that all expenses have been paid, or any cost that comes up after the estate is settled must be paid by you. In Colorado, the probate process takes an average of 9-24 months, so you need to be patient.

During the process you must be loyal to your loved one’s memory, able to settle any family bickering, and oversee all paperwork and activities to settle the estate promptly. Being the estate executor can be a big job, especially if documents are not in order or if it is a large estate. Always ask your attorney any time you have a question, and don’t forget your loved one truly trusted you to have named you to such a position.