When someone designates you as the executor of his or her will and you consequently become the administrator of his or her California probate estate, you may initially feel somewhat overwhelmed and nervous. What all will you need to do? How long will it take? Who, if anyone, can you hire to answer your questions and help you perform your duties?

Becoming an executor can pose a challenge. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, you could find yourself spending substantial time and effort administering it. The good news is that you can hire an attorney and, if needed, other experts to help you. You will not need to pay them yourself because the estate itself will pay their fees.

Estate administration overview

While no one can foresee exactly what you will need to do as part of your executor duties, you can plan on needing to do the following:

  • Find the decedent’s original Last Will and Testament — not a copy of it — and obtain several certified copies of his or her death certificate from the proper authorities
  • File for and obtain Letters Testamentary from the Probate Court
  • Find, collect and secure all of the decedent’s assets and outstanding bills and inventory them, filing your inventory with the Probate Court
  • Notify the decedent’s creditors of his or her death and give them the necessary information about the probate estate you have opened
  • Manage the probate assets and pay all of the decedent’s authorized outstanding bills and taxes
  • Compile a final accounting showing all funds that came into the estate and went out of it and file the accounting with the Probate Court

Once you do all these things, the court will grant you permission to distribute whatever estate assets remain to the decedent’s heirs per the stipulations contained in his or her Last Will and Testament.