I’m leaving my estate equally to my children, and named one daughter as my executor. What will she have to do? I own IRAs, stocks and bonds and two houses.

Your executor’s job is to administer your estate — paying your bills, filing your tax returns, managing your investments — until it’s settled. You can make her job easier by leaving her a list of all your financial accounts and important documents and where to find them. One of the most important is the original copy of your will. (Your heirs would have to jump through legal hoops to persuade the probate court to accept another copy.)

Be sure to include the number of your safe deposit box and where to find the key, and the names and telephone numbers of your lawyer, tax accountant, and any other financial advisers.

After the probate court has authorized your executor to carry out your will’s instructions, she’ll open a bank account for your estate. She’ll transfer the accounts that were in your sole name and have no designated beneficiaries into the new estate account. She’ll write checks on that account to pay the estate’s bills, taxes and administrative expenses. When the estate is settled — in other words, after all the bills are paid and the houses have been sold — she’ll distribute the estate account balance in equal shares to herself and her siblings.

Your executor isn’t in charge of assets that have designated beneficiaries or that you owned jointly with another person. They don’t go into your estate account. The financial institutions that hold your beneficiary-designated and jointly owned accounts will transfer them to the named beneficiaries and surviving joint owners on presentation of your death certificate.


Make sure your executor can easily locate your financial accounts and important documents.