The other day we received a call that began with:“I was named as executor under my brother’s will.  What do I do?  My brother’s estate has more debts than assets.  Will I be held liable as the executor for the debts of my deceased brother?”

As an executor, unless you were individually co-signed on items with the deceased, you will not be held personally liable for the debts of the deceased.  If the estate is open, the executor will be held to high fiduciary standards and must administer the estate in the correct manner but the executor will not be held personally liable on debts he or she would otherwise not be responsible for.  The executor is responsible for gathering all the assets of the estate and ensuring all debts and taxes are paid.  If there are insufficient assets, priorities will need to be determined among the assets.  If there are assets left after the payment of taxes, creditors and expenses of the estate, the executor is responsible to ensure the remaining assets are distributed according to the terms of the will.

 The Executor’s duties range, depending upon the complexity of an estate but can include:

  • Marshaling of assets and managing such assets until distributions are made
  • Determine whether a full probate proceeding is needed
  • File the will with the clerk of court in county in which the decedent resided at the time of his or her passing
  • Establish and maintain an estate bank account
  • Use estate funds to manage estate expenses
  • Ensure debts and taxes are paid in a timely manner
  • Distribute the remaining property according to the terms of the will

Now that you know a little bit more about what an executor’s duties consist of, tune in for Part 2 of this blog that will help you determine who is best fit for the job in your plan.