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6 Things Executors Do Following the Death of a Testator

estate-executor.jpgWhile dealing with the emotional effects of the death of a loved one, an executor must spring into action and start dealing with the business of the deceased person’s affairs. An executor is a person selected by a testator (person writing will) to dispose of the testator’s estate by transferring or selling the testator’s property and possessions to heirs after paying off any debts or obligations of the estate in accordance with the wishes of the testator contained in the will. A mouthful, right?The executor is often a trusted, close member of the testator’s family. The chief responsibility of the executor is to wind down the affairs of the estate. Property and possessions are transferred or sold and debts paid off. Failure to perform these duties may subject the executor to claims from the estate and its heirs for any damages suffered by them for the executor’s duty to act. Just because one is named an executor does not mean the person must accept the responsibility. A person may decline to be the executor. In those situations, there are usually other provisions in the will for the appointment of a backup executor or the court may appoint one, if the first one is unable to accept the responsibility.

• Learn More About Planning Your Own Estate and the Documents You Need

You are the Executor, Now What?

To help executors in Virginia understand what the job entails, below are six of the most common things an executor must do following the death of a testator.

  1. Accept appointment of executor role and notify the local Virginia probate court that you have been named the executor of the estate of your loved one.

  2. Obtain a copy of the will and file it in the local Virginia probate court. Determine which issues need to be decided by the probate court. Keep in mind that not every issue is a probate matter. Some of the issues may have already been determined when the deceased person was still alive, such as gifts.

  3. Notify government agencies and creditors of the testator’s death. This includes the Social Security Agency, mortgage bank, creditors, and taxing authorities for real property holdings.

  4. Set up a bank account to receive incoming estate funds and payoff estate bills. It is important to pay the estate’s debts and taxes while the estate is being wound down. Even if you can wait to pay the debts, any obligation must be satisfied before the assets can be distributed.

  5. Complete and file an inventory or list of the estate assets with the local Virginia probate court. Keep and maintain estate property and possessions safely until they can be transferred or sold in accordance with the testator’s wishes.

  6. Distribute property and possessions in accordance with the testator’s wishes to heirs or successors. If any property or possessions remain they too must be disposed of before the probate matter is closed.   

If you would like to learn more about creating a will, an estate plan, or the role of an executor, please contact the Virginia estate planning attorneys with Ferguson, Rawls & Raines, PC. We will be happy to help answer any questions you may have concerning these topics. 


The type of documents a person should have when planning his or her estate depends on the person's individual needs. However, there are 5 basic documents that EVERY family should have on hand. 

At Ferguson, Rawls & Raines, your Suffolk Virginia estate lawyers, we have a Free printable tip sheet you can DOWNLOAD NOW that offers information these documents.

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Topics: Estate Planning


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