What is an Executor?

Woman serving as executor performing an informal accounting

An Executor, sometimes called a Personal Representative or Surrogate, is the individual responsible for managing the affairs of the deceased person’s probate estate.

For most of us, serving as an executor is not an everyday occurrence. If you’ve been asked to serve as someone’s executor, you likely have a ton of questions about the role and whether you would be a good fit.

Here we answer some of the most common questions. If you have a question not on this list, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer success team who will be happy to assist you.

What does an executor do?

After gaining formal court approval to serve as the executor, you’ll be responsible for all the following initiatives:

  • Collect the deceased person’s assets
  • Pay outstanding debts, taxes, and expenses
  • Distribute gifts to the Willmaker’s beneficiaries
  • Prepare and file any state and federal tax returns

If you’re interested in a more detailed account of these initiatives, check out our other post on “What Does an Executor Do?”.

Who can serve as an executor?

Generally, to qualify as an executor a person must meet the following requirements:

  • 18 years of age or older (21 in some states)
  • US resident
  • has not been ruled incapacitated
  • does not have any felony convictions

Florida is the only state that requires an executor to be a resident of the state, except where the non-Florida resident is related to the deceased person or is the spouse of a person related to the deceased person (Florida Stat. Ann. § 733.304). Other states may impose special requirements on non-resident executors, but such non-residents can generally still qualify to serve as executors.

Is being an executor hard?

The obligations of an executor can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the deceased person’s estate. As a general characterization, serving as an executor is not so much technically difficult as it is time consuming and requires tremendous attention to detail.

You don’t need to be a lawyer or a financial whiz to be an executor, although those types often make great ones. In 6 Attributes to Look for in an Executor, we argue that people who make great executors share the following characteristics:

  • trustworthy
  • detail-oriented
  • patient
  • responsive
  • not afraid to ask for help

If these characteristics describe you, you would likely make a great executor, provided that you have the time to serve.

Serving as an executor is a big responsibility. Prior to agreeing to serve as an executor, you should speak with the Willmaker about his or her values, make sure that you understand your duties as an executor, are familiar with the size and character of the Willmaker’s estate, and are satisfied by the compensation (if any) the Willmaker is offering for your assistance.

Can an executor get additional help?

Even if you are otherwise fully capable of serving as an executor, you may not have the time required to independently navigate the entire estate administration process to close. Fortunately, as an executor you can engage consultants, attorneys, and other agents to assist you with estate administration. The cost of these engagements is paid by the deceased person’s estate.

Does an executor get paid?

As an executor, you are always entitled to have your reasonable out-of-pocket expenses reimbursed by the deceased person’s estate. In addition, you may be eligible for compensation in exchange for your services.

A well-drafted will describes the type of compensation the executor will receive. This may be a specific dollar amount or a percentage of assets that pass through the estate. If the will does not specify compensation, the executor is entitled to “reasonable compensation” under state law and norms, which can work out to be anywhere from 2-5%+ of the gross value of the estate.

More Questions?

If you have a question not on this list, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer success team who will be happy to assist you.


Just In Case Estates is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice. If you need legal advice, please use our legal expert matching service to connect with a qualified, licensed estate planning attorney near you.