Some Minnesota residents may not find out until a loved one’s death that they have been named as the executor under the testator’s will, while others learn this well ahead of time. An executor has a number of responsibilities that include paying creditors, filing tax returns and paying what is owed, locating assets and distributing them to beneficiaries. If there are debts, it might be necessary to sell some assets to pay them off. The executor also has a fiduciary duty to manage the estate effectively. The tasks can seem overwhelming, but an executor can seek assistance from professionals, such as a financial adviser and an attorney, if needed.

Executors who know ahead of time about their role should ask some questions. They should find out where legal documents are as well as marriage certificates, tax returns, insurance records and other types of paperwork. If an executor does not anticipate stepping into the role for years, there should still be an ongoing conversation about money and the estate. Over time, the estate plan may need to be updated as the family and the testator’s assets change.

Another challenge for executors is the emotional element. As they are dealing with the practical side of things, they may also be dealing with their own grief as well.

People who are creating an estate plan may want to carefully consider who will be chosen as executor. The executor does not have to be an expert in legal or financial matters but should be organized and reliable. The executor may also need to be a person who is good at dealing with conflict since some may arise between family members who may be upset about specifics in the estate plan or feel that the process is moving too slowly. However, the distribution of the decedent’s assets comes late in the process and only after creditors are paid.