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The Role of the Estate Executor

David W. Walker Attorney At Law March 24, 2023

Young Male Lawyer Visiting Old Man in Testament ConceptIf someone you were close to has recently passed away and you’ve been named the executor of their estate, there are several responsibilities you’ll need to be aware of. However, many people who find themselves in this role are unsure of even the most basic duties that this job entails.  

If you’d like help understanding your new role and answering questions like, “What does an estate executor do?” and “Who can serve as an executor?”, give me a call, David W. Walker Attorney At Law. I’m able to help clients in the Columbia, Missouri, area, including Jefferson City, Fulton, and Boonville. 

What Is the Role of an Estate Executor?  

The estate executor is someone who’s either specifically named in a will or is assigned to the role by a judge (typically referred to as the estate administrator in these cases). Ideally, this person will know ahead of time that they’ve been named and will have spoken with the testator about their role.  

The executor is responsible for administering the will according to the wishes of the deceased. This will often require them to move the estate through the legal process of probate where the will is “proved.” They will then have to locate all the assets of the deceased, inventory them, have them appraised if necessary, contact all the listed beneficiaries, and then distribute the assets per the will.  

However, before this distribution can take place, the executor must also address any outstanding debts or unpaid taxes. This usually entails posting an official notice to all creditors and giving them enough time to come forward to collect. The executor may also be responsible for such tasks as obtaining a death certificate, closing existing accounts, and opening a new account to pay any expenses. 

Who Can Serve as an Executor in Missouri? 

The testator can essentially name anyone as their executor with the only legal requirements being they’re over the age of 18, are of “sound mind,” and live in the state of Missouri (ideally). There are other restrictions that will only apply in rare cases. For instance, you cannot name someone as your executor who’s a judge or court clerk, unless they are a close family member. If there is no named executor, a judge will assign an administrator, typically a surviving spouse or adult-age child. 

Grounds for Removal of the Executor  

There are certain conditions that could be grounds for the removal of the estate executor, but this can only be done by the probate court. For example, you may be removed as an executor if you’re deemed to be mentally incapacitated or a “habitual drunkard.” You can also be dismissed from this role if you fail to carry out your duties, are neglectful or dismissive of court orders, or if you mismanage the estate.   

Compensation for Executor  

Because the duties and responsibilities of this role can be quite extensive, it’s legal for the executor to earn some amount of compensation. The compensation you receive can be taken out of the deceased’s assets. Sometimes, the will itself will stipulate an executor’s pay, but if this doesn’t exist, then the pay will be determined by the total value of the estate, and there are caps to how much an executor may pay themselves. In Missouri, an executor is able to take up to 5% of the first $5,000 value of the estate, 4% for the next $20,000, and 3% for the next $75,000. After this, compensation is capped at between 2.5% and 2.75%.  

Understand Your Expectations as Executor 

If you’d like to speak with an estate planning attorney about your role as executor of a will, reach out to my firm, Ford Parshall & Baker in Columbia, Missouri.