Executor FAQs

If you’ve been designated as the executor of a will, you may find yourself with numerous questions and in need of guidance. At Goldberg & Goldberg, we understand that this responsibility can be a significant one. On this page, we provide answers to commonly asked questions to aid executors in understanding their duties and the resources available to them.

What Does an Executor Do?

An executor, also referred to as a personal representative in some states, is tasked with managing the decedent’s financial matters after their passing. This includes safeguarding assets, settling debts and taxes, as well as ensuring that heirs receive their designated inheritances. In cases where probate court is involved, the executor oversees the process or employs the services of an attorney to handle the legal complexities.

Am I Obligated to Serve as Executor If Named in a Will?

No individual is legally compelled to accept the role of executor. You have the right to decline or step down from the position at any point, even after initially accepting it. Should you choose not to serve, or resign after starting, the alternate executor named in the will would assume the responsibilities. If no alternate is specified, the court will appoint a suitable replacement.

Do Executors Receive Compensation?

While many people undertake the role of executor to honor the last wishes of the deceased, there is also a provision for remuneration. Payment varies based on state law, the value of the estate, and what the probate court deems fair in the context. It’s not unusual for close family members and friends, especially those who are inheriting significantly, to waive their fee for serving as executor.

Is Hiring a Lawyer Necessary for an Executor?

An executor is not always required to hire a lawyer. Being a diligent executor principally involves meticulous attention to detail and perseverance rather than legal expertise. Many aspects of probate are principally administrative tasks. Should there be no disputes demanding judicial resolution, and if the estate is straightforward with typical assets, an executor might successfully navigate the process without legal assistance.

However, for estates with diverse assets, potential tax implications, or possible conflicts among beneficiaries, obtaining legal advice may be prudent. At Goldberg & Goldberg, we offer executors two levels of support:

  1. Consultative Assistance: Engage our lawyers for guidance on specific legal questions, document review, or estate tax return preparation.
  2. Full Probate Management: If you choose not to manage the probate process, our attorneys can handle everything on your behalf. The fees for these services are paid from the estate and can either be hourly rates or a predefined sum, although some states may authorize a percentage-based fee. Regardless of attorney fees, as an executor, you retain decision-making authority, supplemented by counsel from your chosen attorney.

Can an Executor Seek Assistance from Non-Attorneys?

Certainly, executors have multiple support options outside of hiring an attorney:

  • Court Resources: Probate court staff may answer procedural queries. Some courts offer attorneys who review documents and provide correction advice without offering legal counsel.
  • Other Professionals: Depending on the task, it could be beneficial to hire an accountant or appraiser rather than an attorney, such as for estate tax situations.
  • Nonlawyer Document Preparation: Experienced paralegals can directly assist with probate paperwork, ensuring documents are prepared and filed accurately as per the executor’s instructions.

For a detailed consultation and assistance with your executor duties, feel free to contact Goldberg & Goldberg at (301) 654-5757 for a free consultation. We are here to support you through every step of the probate process.

Photograph of the Thomas Jefferson Monument landscape, adorned with a blue filter.

Contact Us

Fill out the contact form or call us at (301) 654-5757 to schedule your free consultation.