Naming an executor is an essential element of a will. The executor’s role is to secure assets, pay debts and estate taxes, then distribute what remains according to the deceased’s final wishes.
Being chosen as an executor speaks to the person’s integrity and perceived ability to manage the responsibility. While this can be flattering, it also means accepting a time-consuming responsibility that may include liability for errors made during the probate process.
To serve as an executor in North Carolina, a person must be over 18 and of sound mind. Someone with a felony conviction may not serve as an executor before serving their sentence and probation period or being fully pardoned. The probate court will reject an executor who is incapable of performing the job, and the judge will appoint a suitable replacement.
Immediately following a person’s death, their executor must secure the assets, handle financial transactions, and obtain copies of the death certificate. Most importantly, an executor must know where to find and secure a copy of the will and contact named beneficiaries.
The executor should open a bank account in the estate’s name to receive cash assets from existing bank accounts and then prepare for the probate process if applicable.
The court will not appoint someone to the role of an executor who declines to accept the position. However, after agreeing to take on the job, they should prepare for some possible family conflicts and things that do not go as smoothly as they might. It can take a year or more to close out an estate and file the final tax return, so it is best to set realistic expectations.