If you’ve been named as executor of the estate of a friend or family member, be sure you
understand the responsibilities and potential risks before you agree to serve. You’re not
required to accept the appointment, of course, but once you do it’s more difficult to
extricate yourself should you change your mind.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What’s your relationship to the deceased? If he or she was a close family member,
consider not accepting the appointment if you think your grief will make it
difficult to function effectively in the executor role.
- Are you willing and able to take on the duties of an executor? Generally, an
executor is responsible for arranging probate, identifying and taking custody of
the deceased’s assets, making investment decisions, filing tax returns, handling
creditors’ claims, paying the estate’s expenses, and distributing assets according
to the will. Although you can seek help from professionals — such as attorneys,
accountants and investment managers — it’s still a lot of work, usually for little
or no compensation. Be sure to ask whether the estate has set aside funds to pay
for professional advisors.
- What’s your location? If you live far away from the place where the assets and
beneficiaries are located, your job will be more difficult, time consuming and
- Do you have a good relationship with the beneficiaries? If not, accepting the
appointment may put you in a difficult position, especially if you’re also a
beneficiary and the other beneficiaries view that as a conflict of interest.
- Will the estate pay your expenses? Even if you receive no fee or commission for
serving as executor, be sure the estate will pay, or reimburse you, for any out-of-