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Executor? Administrator? What Is the Difference?

Executor? Executrix? Administrator? Administratrix? What are these scary terms, and why do they always come up when someone dies? And what do these people do anyway? Basically all these terms are names for a trusted person who agrees to see that a deceased person's property is distributed either according to that person's wishes, as expressed in a will, or under state law if there is no will. An executor (male) or executrix (female) is the person named in a will to perform these duties. An administrator (male) or administratrix (female) is the person appointed by the probate court to complete these tasks when there is no will or no executor or executrix has been named in the will.

Suppose you have been named as the executrix in your late aunt's will. What will you have to do? The first duty is to obtain all her property and manage and protect it until it can be given to the persons identified in the will. This often takes several months and sometimes years to complete. All the bank accounts must be collected and closed, and the funds placed in a new account to hold all the estate's money. You may have to sell property, land, or stocks and convert them into cash so that you can distribute it to the beneficiaries named in the will.

You will also have to pay all the estate's debts and taxes with the funds you have collected. Jobs like submitting claims on life insurance policies, notifying Social Security and pension funds of your aunt's death, and continuing to collect income on rental properties, stocks, and bonds must be done. Finally you will be required to file the will in the local probate court, decide whether further probate proceedings are necessary, identify and locate the beneficiaries under the will, and decide who gets what and how much, according to the terms of the will.

The law does not require an executrix to have any special training in law, finance, or any other specialty. Honesty and the ability to act in the best interest of the estate are all that is required. Sound like a lot of work? It is, but giving one of your loved ones or friends the confidence that their wishes will be carried out is a noble deed. But do not try to do it alone. Consult with a trusts and estates attorney who can help you through the process.