Strategizing for the future often includes estate planning to ensure your final wishes are carried out. As you think through your preparations, the crucial question, “What is the role of an executor in estate planning?” can be answered by an estate planning lawyer.

What Is the Role of an Executor in Estate Planning?

An estate executor’s role is to finalize a person’s finances and ensure the decedent’s wishes are carried out. The executor, sometimes called a personal representative, has a fiduciary duty to follow the directions of the will, including distributing money and assets to designated beneficiaries. Often times, the appointed executor is also a named heir, but they must act solely on the estate’s best interest.


One of the first steps of an executor is to inventory all the estate’s assets and debts. Next, the executor will notify appropriate parties of the death. This can include: 

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Employers
  • Credit card companies
  • Social Security Administration
  • Banks
  • Other lenders

Executors are also responsible for managing the daily affairs of an estate, notifying beneficiaries of a pending inheritance, paying off or negotiating outstanding debts, and filing all final taxes. Finally, the executor will distribute all remaining assets as outlined in the will and eventually close the estate.

Does an Executor Receive Compensation?

Because the process can be cumbersome and time-consuming, executors can receive compensation for their efforts. The paid fee is a percentage of the entire estate and varies depending on the value of the total assets. Certain assets are legally excluded from being considered when computing total compensation.

Beneficiaries are allowed to ask for and receive an accounting of the estate, including bank statements from which the executor is being paid. This acts as a system of checks and balances.

Traits of a Great Executor

Anyone, or sometimes multiple people, can be named an executor of someone’s estate. Often, people will designate their children or siblings to co-execute their will. Successful executors will possess positive traits like being:

  • Responsible
  • Financially stable
  • Detail oriented
  • Patient
  • Trustworthy
  • Calm

It’s important to know there are requirements in New York State that must be met to have your nominated executor approved. An executor must be at least 18 years old, have no felony record, and be of sound mind. An out-of-state executor is allowed to be named in New York.

What If an Executor Isn’t Named?

If the decedent hasn’t named an executor, a court will choose on behalf of the estate. This decision is made, in order, from the list of surviving next of kin:

  1. Spouse
  2. Children
  3. Grandchildren
  4. Parent
  5. Siblings

Choosing your own executor is the best way to ensure your estate planning is carried out exactly the way you envision.

Next Steps

No matter what stage of the estate planning process you’re in, getting the right legal advice from an experienced estate planning and probate administration attorney will help you make informed decisions so your final wishes and goals are accomplished the way you intend them to be.  Contact the law offices of Joseph N. Yamaner and Associates in Queens, NY for personalized solutions to all your estate planning needs.