Being named a personal representative, also known as an executor, in a loved one’s will is a huge responsibility. The executor of a will has many duties, from paying beneficiaries to settling the remaining debt.

While the actual list of duties can vary depending on the size of the estate, the value of assets, and many other details, this guide provides a general picture of what an executor can expect when administering a will.

Gather documents & access the estate

Executors need access to the deceased’s will so it can be submitted to the court for review. They will also need a copy of the person’s death certificate, which allows the executor access to the deceased’s bank accounts. The death certificate is also integral in canceling open accounts. If there are valuable items within the home, the personal representative may choose to take possession of them to ensure they remain secure. To prevent unauthorized access to the estate, the executor can also change the locks on the property.

Submitting the will & assume control of the estate

Upon submission of the will, the court will determine whether it is legal and binding. If so, matters like selling property and paying off outstanding debt to creditors will become your responsibility. You must pay all creditors owed money by the deceased in full or there could be serious consequences. If you neglect this duty and a creditor receives less than what is owed, you will be personally responsible for making up the difference. If the deceased has a large amount of debt, the costs can be quite steep.

Distributing assets to beneficiaries

The last step is distributing assets to heirs according to the terms in the will. Upon completion of your duties as a personal representative, you will also receive a sum of money. In many cases, the will creator will include terms regarding the executor’s fee. Otherwise, the court will defer to state laws on fees. In North Carolina, executor fees entail a percentage of the total worth of the estate. As a final step, executors are obligated to provide an inventory to the court, which effectively closes the estate.