mourners surrounding urn at funeralAn executor is an individual or organization responsible for administering a decedent's estate during the probate process. An executor's duties are complicated and time-consuming, and not everyone is up to the task. Here's what to expect if you've been named or appointed executor of a loved one's estate. We also provide guidance about when you should consider seeking professional assistance.

Becoming an Executor

In Virginia, the role of executor is conferred by the circuit court of the city or county where the decedent resided at the time of their death. When a testator creates a will, they typically name the person or entity they want to be entrusted with the administration of the estate according to the terms of the last will and testament.

The executor can be just about anyone—from a trusted friend or relative to a bank or other professional fiduciary. However, in order to be approved by the court, the person named as executor must be older than 18 and mentally and physically capable of carrying out a long list of complex duties and responsibilities. Additionally, an executor may be required to pay a surety bond (though most Virginia wills waive this requirement).

In cases where a decedent died without a will, or intestate, the court will appoint an individual or institution to administer the estate according to Virginia intestate succession statutes.

Duties and Responsibilities

An executor is responsible for resolving a decedent's estate. This is often a lengthy process that involves marshaling the estate's assets, paying outstanding (and legally enforceable) debts, and distributing inheritances to beneficiaries—either according to the terms of the will or, in the absence of a will, per intestate succession laws.

If named or appointed to serve as the executor for a loved one's estate, your duties and responsibilities may include:

  • Obtaining the decedent's death certificate
  • Making or executing funeral and/or burial arrangements
  • Locating the will and other important estate planning documents
  • Gathering, inventorying, and valuing estate assets
  • Notifying probate heirs, beneficiaries, and other relatives
  • Determining and paying debts and applicable taxes
  • Filing an inventory of the estate with the Commissioner of Accounts
  • Defending the estate against invalid debts and claims
  • Distributing remaining assets according to the will or intestate succession
  • Settling the estate with the court

When this list is extensive, it barely scratches the surface in terms of what, exactly, is expected of someone serving as an estate executor.


As discussed above, administering an estate is no small job, and tasks can be time-consuming. Executors are allowed to collect a fee for their work, which is subject to court approval. While the executor fee is often stated in the will, when it isn't, the court will decide what fee is reasonable.

Removing an Executor

Carrying out the decedent's final wishes and acting in the best interests of the estate's beneficiaries are the most important duties an executor has. If an executor fails to live up to their responsibilities, they can be removed for misconduct.

When You Need Professional Assistance

Did your loved one die without real estate and very few assets? You may be able to sail through the probate process or even bypass it entirely. However, if the estate assets are considerable or there's the potential for legal disputes, it's wise to consult a knowledgeable probate attorney. Here are a few reasons:

  • Probate involves complicated laws and deadlines
  • Assets may be difficult to locate or gather
  • The process can be contentious, especially if beneficiaries are squabbling over assets or eager to receive their inheritance
  • You feel confused or overwhelmed by the probate process

Schedule a Consultation

If you need professional guidance for estate administration, or you are ready to turn the task over to experienced Virginia probate attorneys, contact us today to schedule an appointment for a consultation to discuss your legal needs.

Post A Comment