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The Heritage Law Center, LLC Blog

What You Should Know About Being an Executor

POSTED ON: April 25, 2018

While it feels like an honor when a loved one asks you to serve as the executor of his estate, it’s important to understand what that position is about before you accept it. Here are some things to think about in case you’re considering being an executor of a Massachusetts estate.

Will you have the time?
Paperwork, sending documents, traveling to the person’s home (which is more difficult when it’s out of state), making phone calls, and consulting lawyer and financial experts are just part of the work. You’ll need to pull together the information on the deceased person’s bank accounts, mortgage services, investment firms, and life insurance. You might even be asked to sort through the person’s home to clean it out and sell its assets. You’ll also need to figure out which family members get which items. If an estate has to go through probate, it will typically be settled within 12 to 18 months if there’s no litigation involved.

Do you have the skills needed?
An executor needs to be very organized and comfortable with managing details. And there can be lots and lots of details! It’s also important to be able to manage and understand finances and have the ability to make decisions.

Do you have the temperament?
While you’re sorting through legal and financial matters, you’ll likely encounter various types of personalities. Some will be more pleasant and helpful than others. You’ll also be dealing with the grieving loved ones and the dynamics of the family. All of this will be going on while you’re mourning the loss of your loved one.

Are you up for learning the whole process?
Each state has specific laws and timetables affecting the executor’s job. You’re in charge of paying the estate debts, selling estate assets, paying estate taxes, distributing assets, and more. You’re personally liable for the proper administration of the estate. If you misrepresent the value of an asset, you could be held accountable by the IRS or by the beneficiaries. If the heirs prove that you’ve shortchanged them, you could have to reimburse them out of your own pocket.

Can you financially afford to be an executor?
You’ll need to travel to the person’s hometown possibly many times. Being an executor might also take time away from your own job. In the majority of states, executors can take a percentage of the estate’s value as a fee, even if a fee wasn’t mentioned in the will. However, taking a fee comes with its own issue as family members sometimes see that fee as taking away from their inheritance.

The good news is that as an executor, you can work with an estate planning lawyer to make your job easier. The Heritage Law Center works with executors of estates on a regular basis. We’re familiar with state law and how the probate court works. We can help you navigate this process and reduce the time, expense, and frustration of this process as much as possible.

If you find yourself as the executor of an estate and you’re looking for a Massachusetts probate and estate planning lawyer, contact us and we’ll help you every step of the way. Just call us at (617) 299-6976 or send an email to