Being the executor of an estate can be a time-consuming job, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. While a simple estate can take a few months and not require a huge time commitment, if there are problems, the job can drag on for years.

An executor is the person responsible for managing the administration of a deceased individual’s estate. Although the time and effort involved will vary with the size of the estate, even if you are the executor of a small estate you will have important duties that must be performed correctly or you may be liable to the estate, its creditors, or to the beneficiaries.

It’s prudent for someone named as executor in a Will to first consult with an attorney to learn what’s involved, including the executor’s duties and potential liabilities, and to become aware of applicable deadlines. To start the probate process, the executor must file the will for probate. In Pennsylvania, that occurs at the Register of Wills office at the courthouse for the County where the decedent lived. It is important that the executor to understand what is required and when

How much actual time an executor will have to devote to the job can range widely. Settling an estate takes an average of 16 months, according the software company EstateExec, and the settlement process requires an average of roughly 570 hours of work on the part of the executor. Average compensation for executors was $18,000.

While executors must adhere to deadlines set by the state, other factors can make the estate administration go faster or slower. The following are the issues that can add or subtract time:

  • Debts. The executor must notify potential creditors about the decedent’s death. In Pennsylvania, a specific form of legal advertising is required to be published both in a local newspaper and in the County’s law journal once a week for three successive weeks. The date on which this happens establishes the deadline for creditors to come forward with the filing of a claim with the executor.
  • Location. The location of the executor and the beneficiaries can affect the time it takes to settle the estate. If the executor does not live in the same state as the decedent and the beneficiaries, it can take more time to send documents back and forth. However, this is now less of a problem with the advent of electronic communication.
  • Assets. The more complicated the assets, the longer it will take the executor to sort everything out. If the estate consists of just a house and bank account, things will go more quickly than if the estate consists of multiple bank accounts, stocks, brokerage accounts, valuables, and/or a family business. Still, real estate, alone, can sometimes add a great deal of time to the process.
  • Contested Estate. If the beneficiaries are fighting amongst themselves or with the executor, the probate process is going to take longer. One way an unhappy family member can hold up probate is by contesting the will, based on mental incapacity, undue influence, fraud, or allegations that it wasn’t executed properly. A beneficiary can also prolong the process by challenging the executor’s actions.

Every family situation is unique, so there is no set time that an executor can expect to work. If you are named as an executor, the lawyers at Vasiliadis Pappas can help. Distributing estates and trusts are a big part of what we do.

Contact Vasiliadis Pappas Associates for assistance if you or a loved one encounters this situation.