How a Will Operates After Death: The Executor and Probate Proceedings

After a person dies, his or her will undergoes probate proceedings before the will property can be distributed to the beneficiaries. This post will discuss the duties of an executor and the probate process.

The Executor of the Will

An important decision to include in a will is naming the “executor.” This should be a trusted person whom you would want to carry out the terms of your will. It is also advisable to name a successor executor in case the first named executor is unable to serve.

An executor will decide whether the will needs to go through probate proceedings, and if probate is required, file the will and other required papers in local probate court. Managing a will during the probate process can be a very lengthy process and include substantial fees. An executor also needs to pay taxes on behalf of the estate and the file the final return for the deceased, set up an estate bank account for paying bills and receiving payments, and ultimately supervising the distribution of the will property.

Probate Proceedings

In order for a will to be administered, the executor must file the will with a local probate court. The probate process can last anywhere from several months to years, depending on the complexities of the estate. In general, the probate process gives creditors, beneficiaries, and heirs notice that the maker of the will is deceased and the will property is being distributed. The following posts will go into more detail about the specifics of the proceedings and whether or not an attorney should be hired.

In general, many people criticize the probate process as needless bureaucracy requiring high fees that diminish the value of the estate. Savvy estate planners often use various devices to avoid putting property through probate as much as possible since generally the greater the estate value, the higher the probate fees. However, defenders of the probate process say that it prevents fraud in the transfer of property and provides a forum to promptly resolve any creditor claims on the estate. Certainly if there are complicated or serious debt issues with an estate, including tax issues, it is advisable to have the property go through probate.