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Ask Dave

What An Executor Needs To Know

Brian wants to know the ins and outs of what it takes to be the executor of a last will and testament.

QUESTION: Brian was asked by his parents to be the executor of their last wills and testaments. He wants to know how to be a good executor, and Dave tells him all he needs to know.

ANSWER: You need a copy of the will, and understand what their intent is with the will. You need a good inventory of the assets. You can’t find assets if they are not listed. You need a list of liabilities, so a basic financial statement or net worth statement is good. Otherwise, you have to go look that stuff up. It’s tough to be the executor of the estate if you don’t know what the estate is.

You’re not being invasive to ask what their estate is, because you can’t manage it if you don’t know what’s in there. It will entail a meeting with them and a check-in with them about once a year. If they are going to keep secrets from you, then they need someone else to be the executor. You also want to know who is going to probate the will. In most states you go before the judge with the will and with an attorney. The attorney then presents it to the judge. The will says ‘we want Brian to b executor of the estate.’ The judge then affirms that and officially names you executor. The executor’s job is to follow the instructions of the will.

The first job is to get them to show you the will, so you know their expectations and can thus execute on the will. I don’t want to be the executor of the estate that is disorganized or that doesn’t have a will. If you do that, it will suck the life out of you. You’ll live in the courtroom while family members bicker, and you won’t get anything for it.