Role of the Executor

The role of the executor is to administer a person’s estate according to the Will.  In Washington State any person age eighteen or over may act as an executor.  The executor, also called a personal representative, is generally named in a person’s Will and is often a surviving spouse or other family member.  In certain instances, the court requires the executor to post a bond to ensure performance of his duties and may require all actions to be approved by the court.  To avoid the posting of a bond and the “intervention” of the court, a Will should specifically state that a bond is not required and the executor will have “non-intervention” powers.  Of course, a determination should first be made that those waivers are appropriate, given the specific circumstances.

Your Will should also name an alternate person to act as executor if the first person selected is not able to act due to death or disability or is for any other reason unavailable.  It is often best for the executor to be in the same geographic area.  It can be a heavy burden to attempt to probate an estate from another state. 

One concept used frequently is that of co-executors.  Parents often want to name multiple children so as not to leave anyone out.  This can be both a blessing and a curse.  It can be good for a child to have a sibling’s support, but on the other hand disagreement can arise and cause unnecessary friction.


In Washington an executor is often required to undertake many of the following duties:


Open the probate estate with the court
File the Will with the court
Obtain Letters Testamentary
Provide various notices to beneficiaries, creditors and the State
Locate heirs
Determine estate assets
Create an inventory of those assets
Marshal all the assets of the estate
Collect all income, such as rents, interest, and dividends
Make demand for and collect all debts and claims due the decedent
Complete pending lawsuits
Represent the estate in a Will contest or other litigation
Liquidate those assets that will not be specifically distributed to heirs
Facilitate the distribution of various non-probate assets
Maintain estate records
Keep estate and personal assets separate
Open a bank account for the estate
Prepare and file state and federal inheritance, estate and income tax returns, if necessary
Pay the obligations of the estate, including taxes and expenses of last illness
Distribute the assets of the estate
Collect receipts from the heirs, and
Close the estate.



Generally, an executor is allowed “reasonable” compensation for his or her efforts.  What is reasonable may not be so easy to determine and the court may have the final say.  If the executor is a family member, such person may waive their fee in an effort to maximize the estate for all beneficiaries.

The role of the executor can be relatively simple or it can be very challenging depending on the complexity of the estate and the personalities of the family members.  So you should choose your executor wisely and give him or her clear guidance in your Will.

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