What is an Executor or Administrator & What do They Do?

If a person dies with a will, the will usually appoints an Executor. (Older wills use the Latin word executrix for a female executor; modern wills use executor as a unisex word.) An executor who is out of state does not need a Nevada co-executor, although if requested one could be appointed. (Surprisingly, most California counties discriminate against an out of state Executor.)

If a person dies without a will, a relative can be appointed Administrator. (Again, you may see a female Administrator referred to as an Administratrix.) N.R.S. 139.040 specifies which relatives have priority to be appointed administrator. If the administrator is out of state, a Nevada co-administrator must be appointed. See Nevada Resident or Professional Administrator?

Differences Between Executors & Administrators

There is little difference between an Executor and Administrator except that an Administrator not resident in Nevada is required to work with a Nevada resident co-Administrator. There is no similar requirement for a non-resident Executor. Also, the Executor is usually appointed to serve without bond which means the Executor can handle the estate's money. An Administrator needs a bond, or, to avoid the expense of a bond, the Administrator will be ordered to run all estate money through the attorneys' trust account. Occasionally a Do it Yourself Will appoints an Executor without the magic words that the Executor may serve without bond. In such a case either the Executor has to get a bond or run the estate's money through the attorney's trust account.

Duties of The Personal Representative

Executors and Administrators are collectively called Personal Representatives.

The duties of the Personal Representative depends on what sort of property is in the estate. Here are typical jobs of the Personal Representative:

  1. Hire an attorney for the estate and negotiate the attorney fee. There is no obligation to hire the attorney who wrote the will.
  2. With the advice of the estate attorney make decisions on whether to take certain legal positions. For example, a creditor might have a claim that maybe is valid and maybe isn't. Does the estate deny it or pay it? Or, perhaps, the will is truly ambiguous as to whether A or B gets an asset; the personal representative will decide which position the attorney should argue to the court, or the personal representative may try and broker a compromise among all involved.
  3. Go through the Decedent's residence(s) and storage facility, if there is one, and examine the contents. Perhaps, the contents are only junk with no value that makes them worth the trouble to sell or worth the time of a charity to pick them up. Or, the contents could be very valuable in which case the personal representative will determine the best way to sell them. Or, perhaps, the contents have some value but not enough to justify the cost of trying to sell them in which case it may be appropriate to give them to charity. (It could be appropriate to give high value items to charity, but only if the will specifies, or the heirs and court agree.)
  4. If the decedent owned a motor vehicle or real estate, make arrangements to sell these assets with the guidance of the estate attorney, and often, the approval of the Court. Selling a car could involve a quick sale to a wholesale dealer or advertising the car to retail buyers, depending on circumstances.
  5. If the decedent had financial accounts such as bank accounts, stock accounts, or mutual funds, determine what paperwork these institutions need to turn over money to the estate and do the paperwork, with the guidance, as needed, of the estate attorney.
  6. If necessary hire a tax professional to do both a decedent's tax return and the estate's tax return. As an attorney I can make recommendations, but the personal representative is free to shop around, or use their personal tax person.
  7. If there are heirs who are not personal representatives, it will be the job of the personal representative to communicate the status of the estate to the other heirs. The attorney hired to do the probate is not expected to talk to non-clients and an heir is not a client unless the heir is a personal representative who hired the lawyer. (If the attorney is charging by the hour and the personal representative authorizes to the attorney to talk to all of the other heirs the lawyer may do so, but the heirs may not be pleased with the resulting hourly bill.)