You, as an executor, carry out a deceased person's last wishes and disburse her estate as dictated by the terms of her will. Probate, a court proceeding, is used to uphold a will and give you the necessary power to fulfil your legal obligations. You must account for your actions as an executor to the probate court handling the estate.
Final bills of the deceased person, such as the funeral costs, are paid by you out of the estate's assets. You can sell, lease and dispose of estate property if permitted to do so by state law and under the terms of the will. The execution of legal documents to sell, lease or transfer property, such as deeds or lease agreements, is performed by you. The proceeds from any transfer of estate property you complete is added to the estate's total value and belongs to the will beneficiaries.
You are responsible for preserving and protecting the estate's assets until the items are sold, transferred or otherwise settled. Real estate the deceased person owned that has a delinquent mortgage can be foreclosed on by the lender, but you can petition the court to release funds from the estate before probate is completed to save the asset.
Real estate that is specifically left to a person named in the will must be transferred by you to that beneficiary. The beneficiary is free to sell, lease or live in the property once the transfer is complete.
You can allow the beneficiaries to decide what to do with property that is not specifically provided for in the will. The family home can be sold with the proceeds split among beneficiaries in accordance with willed shares, or one beneficiary may decide to purchase the home using part of his share. You must make sure any beneficiary who uses his share to purchase an estate asset gives you the difference, if any, between his share and the market value of the asset for the benefit of the estate.
You do not have control over property held in joint tenancy, which is real estate the deceased person owned with another person. The ownership of joint property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant upon the person's death. Jointly-held property is not subject to probate proceedings.
The probate court or the will itself can require you obtain a bond. A bond is a financial guarantee of the executor's duty of fulfilment and is issued by a bond or surety company. The company pays the estate damages up to the face value of the bond should you fail to complete your obligations, steal from the estate or behave in a negligent or dishonest manner.