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What are the duties of an executor of a will?

A will is often the cornerstone of many types of estate planning. Through the formation of a last will and testament, individuals can detail how they wants assets and property transferred at the time of their death. Typically, a person creating the will, also known as the testator, will identify an individual in the will who is responsible for overseeing the execution of the will as the testator originally intended. This person is known as the executor of a will.

In most situations, people seeking to create an estate plan that involves a will choose an attorney to act as the executor of their will in the event of their deaths. This is primarily because the executor of the will must perform a wide variety of duties that often require legal knowledge. Here are some examples of those duties:

-- An executor of a will must attempt to carry out the testator's wishes as closely as possible without spending unnecessary or inappropriate amounts of the testator's estate while carrying out those tasks.

-- The executor has a responsibility to gather all of the testator's assets and keep detailed records of those funds.

-- The executor must use money from the testator's estate to pay off any claims from valid creditors. The executor must pay off those claims first before transferring any money to the testator's heirs.

-- The executor must also ensure that the testator's estate has complied with and paid any applicable state and federal taxes.

You should know that the choice of an executor of your will is an important decision. A consultation with an estate planning attorney who is experienced with New York's estate planning laws can help you form a legally valid and enforceable will. This could potentially help your heirs avoid expensive and time-consuming probate litigation after you are no longer able to handle your affairs for yourself.

Source: Forbes, "Understanding the Role and Responsibilities of an Executor," Bernard A. Krooks, accessed Aug. 18, 2015

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