What does executor of estate mean?

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What does executor of estate mean?
An executor is charged with dealing with the estate of a deceased person. (Estate image by Yuriy Rozanov from Fotolia.com)

The executor of an estate is the person who deals with the debts, belongings, funeral arrangements and other details of a deceased person after his death. Executors are usually appointed by the person still living and are named in that person's will. In the event a person dies without an estate executor, an executor is appointed by the government.

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Duties of an Executor

The duties of an executor can be quite extensive and complicated, depending on the size and the organizational condition of the estate with which he is dealing. If the deceased left a clear and comprehensive will that was overseen by a legal professional and properly notarised, wrapping up the affairs of the estate will probably be fairly straightforward. The physical effects of the deceased are distributed to family, friends or others who are identified in the will, and any debts that are owed by the deceased are paid from the estate. In the case of an estate without a will, particularly when it involves conflict amongst heirs, settling the estate may become complex and require the intervention of the courts.


Most executors are family members, often one of the children of the deceased. In families where there are disagreements about distribution of the estate, the fact that one family member is the executor can sometimes lead to conflict. This is one of the many reasons it is important to complete a clear will that stipulates the wishes of the owner of the estate. If the executor has conflicts of interest regarding distribution of the estate, he is probably not an ideal candidate for that role.


The law in most areas stipulates that an executor can be paid for her duties in settling the estate. In many cases where the executor is a family member, this payment is waived. In other cases where the executor is an acquaintance of the family, or particularly when the executor is a hired professional, payment is generally determined as a percentage of the estate's value. This payment equals 2.5 per cent of the value of the estate, according to the website Professional Referrals.


Many people complete a will long before they die to be sure their wishes will be clear upon their demise. The primary purpose of a will is to provide an official document that lays out the preferences of the owner of the estate as to its dispersal. Wills may also clarify the funeral and burial wishes of the deceased as well as other details such as organ donation. The executor of an estate may be involved in carrying out any or all of these posthumous wishes.

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