This article describes the executor’s duties. Don’t attempt to handle an estate without the help of an experienced lawyer. Do you want to look like the lady below?  To find out how to avoid the Probate process check out Wis’s Revocable Living Trust Package.

I recently attended an excellent 3 hour seminar offered by the Memphis Bar Association Probate/Estate Planning Law Section, of which I have been a member.  I received a list of tasks that the Executor or the lawyer must perform. See this Probate To Do List to get some idea of the job of the Executor and his attorney. The rest of this article lists only a few of the duties of an executor.


To “Probate”  means to prove and a will has no power until the Probate Court approves it. So with the help of your attorney, you must ask the Probate Court to approve the Will and appoint you as Executor. The Court will award “letters testamentary” to the Executor, to establish that he has authority over the property in the estate. As an Executor one must unwind the life of the deceased person and dispose of the Decedent’s property according to the decedent’s wishes.

The State of Tennessee and the Court has laws to protect everyone who might be affected by the estate, creditors, people named in the Will, Tenncare, everyone.

These are only a few of the Executor’s other  duties. The Executor must:

  • within 60 days after the initial Court appearance the executor must prove that he notified the beneficiaries, publish in the paper notices to creditors and put together an inventory of the estate assets.
  • collect income of the decedent.
  • locate all estate assets, brokerage and bank accounts, personal property and so on.
  •  collect life insurance.  .
  • collect debts owed the decedent.
  • distribute assets to beneficiaries or  sell them and give the proceeds to the beneficiaries.
  • Close charge accounts, club memberships, subscriptions.
  • pay, fight or settle creditors’ claims, mortgages and get receipts proving they are paid.
  • get a Tenncare release.
  • File tax returns. Obtain a tax ID number and must file tax returns for the decedent (and his surviving spouse) and for the estate the Executor must prepare and file timely Federal income tax for the decedent and the estate if required.
  • deal with beneficiaries and find out what personal items they want, distribute specific bequests to them and get receipts proving they are satisfied.
  • Once everything is done, the Executor must get receipts from the beneficiaries and get receipts from them.
  • Unless an accounting is waived, the Executor must prepare an exhaustive accounting, showing all assets with with the estate started, all transactions in all accounts and a balanced bottom line.
  • Make final settlement. The Executor will then provide a petition to the Probate Court showing that all has been done and asking that the Court approve the closing of the estate in an Order prepared by the attorney.


Find a complete treatment of this process in the 3-volume treatise, Pritchard on Wills and administration of Estates (Matthew Bender – updated).

To find out how to relieve your family from spending the time and money needed to handle the Probate Court process after your death, check out Wis’s Revocable Living Trust Package.\


About Wis Laughlin

I help clients with tax preparation and IRS representation, estate planning, and complex contracts, including LLC's. As a former IRS tax attorney in their National Office. Law.com picked Wis in 2017 and several prior years as one of the Top Tax and Estate Lawyers in Tennessee. I am your advocate, not your accountant. I don't tell you what you can't do. I show you how to do it.
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