An executor is the individual or institution named in a will who is responsible for administering the estate.
The executor may be someone you already know, perhaps a family member or friend. The overall responsibility of the executor is to administer the estate according to the deceased's final wishes expressed in the will, and according to law.
Ideally, communication between an executor and the estate's beneficiaries is open and smooth throughout the estate settlement process.
In some cases, however, there may be tension between beneficiaries and the executor or disagreements about the will itself.
It's important to understand the potentially overwhelming nature of the executor's duties. Executors can be required to undertake dozens of individual tasks and deal with numerous government agencies and professionals to carry out the estate settlement.
Executor duties can take months or sometimes even years of work. Executors may struggle with family tensions, time constraints and personal liability when they may also be grieving a personal loss. They may have been named executor because of their role in the deceased's life or because of their profession, but if they have no prior experience settling an estate, it may be a daunting prospect.
As sole beneficiary or beneficiary of some or the entire residue of the estate (the remaining portion after specific gifts have been removed), you are entitled to:
1. See full and accurate estate accounts on a regular basis.
2. Approve the estate accounts.
3. Request an explanation if you are not satisfied with the accounts.
4. Be notified when the executor applies to court for probate .
5. Receive your inheritance in a timely way, while understanding it's not uncommon for even the most straightforward estate settlements to take from several months to a year or more to complete.
6. Apply to the court to remove the executor if you feel the estate settlement is not being carried out in a responsible manner.
7. Review and approve the executor's level of compensation, which can be set by a court if necessary to resolve any dispute, unless it was set by the will.
If you have concerns about the estate settlement process, it's important to discuss these concerns with the executor as they arise. By addressing issues early, you can help ensure that concerns don't multiply and undermine your relationship with the executor. It's in everyone's best interest to resolve issues that relate to the estate as simply and as quickly as possible.
When you are informed that you will be receiving money from an estate, especially if it's a significant amount, it's a good idea to take some time before making any decisions. An inheritance may have a significant impact on your life, so you may wish to consider your options carefully before deciding what to do with it.