An executor can be defined as a person (or institution) appointed by an individual to carry out the terms of that individual's will after death.
(Note: the term “personal representative” is the current legal term used to refer to an executor/executrix, administrator/administratix, and judicial trustee.)
Normally, people appoint executors in their wills. There can be one or more executors appointed. If no executor is appointed but a person is named and given duties that an executor would be expected to carry out, that person can sometimes apply for probate as an executor according to the tenor of the will.
If a person who has not been appointed as an executor intermeddles in the estate, or acts as the executor, he or she may be deemed the executor. The person would then be referred to as the executor de son tort.
An executrix is a woman who has been appointed by an individual to carry out the terms of that individual's will after death. This term is not used very often as all people in this role are generally referred to as executors.
There is no difference between the duties of an executrix and an executor.
What Does it Mean to Be an Executor/Executrix?
If you have been appointed as an executor, meaning you are to act for the deceased, your role is to manage the deceased's estate until it can be distributed according to the terms of the will by the trustee. The probate process can take up to a year and even longer in complex cases or when there is a trust in the will. The executor manages the estate throughout probate, which can take a lot of time and effort.
The executor or executrix is responsible for applying for a grant of probate. This includes submitting the most recent version of the will and any codicils to the probate court so the court can decide if the will is valid.
There are a number of other forms that must be submitted along with the will, as well as notices that must be sent out to specific individuals. Your estate lawyer can help you determine which forms are required for your situation.
The executor/executrix must also make a detailed list of all of the assets and debts belonging to the estate at the time of death. The assets must be secured and maintained and the debts must be paid out of the estate.
An income tax return must be filed by the executor for the last year of the deceased person's life. If the estate is large enough, an estate tax return will also have to be filed. This will require obtaining a valuation of the assets held by the estate.
The executor must keep detailed records of all activities and expenses. At the end of the process, a full accounting must be given to the beneficiaries of the will.
This is just a general overview of the duties of an executor. Anyone appointed as an executor in a will should discuss their situation with an estate lawyer to determine the steps they need to take in fulfilling their duties. You can also visit the Executor Duties page on this site to learn more.