What Do I Do If My Father Has Died & I Am the Executor of His Estate?

If you were named executor to your father's will, you are responsible for settling your father's final affairs. You will have to file the will and a probate petition in the probate court, which will issue letters testamentary, a legal document naming you the executor. An executor has several duties beyond simply filing in court, and you are responsible for completing all of the tasks.

Take an Inventory

You must file an inventory of the assets your father owned with the probate court. The inventory should include cars, real estate, personal property and financial accounts. An organized list prevents assets from slipping through the cracks. The list must be detailed, and all items on your inventory must show the monetary value the belonging had on your father's date of death. Your inventory has to be filed with the probate court handling your father's estate by the court-dictated deadline.

Get Appraisals

You need appraisals from verified experts for assets such as real estate, rare collections and expensive jewelry. The appraiser you select has to be licensed in your state and recognized by the probate court as you need proof of the appraisal values documented on a report. The probate court handling your father's estate should have a list of acceptable appraisers in your area available upon request, as well as a list of state standard values for common household items that do not need special appraisals.

Pay Bills

Your father's final bills must be paid out of his estate, or you risk legal action by his creditors. The money in your father's financial accounts, like a checking account or certificates of deposit, is readily available -- as opposed to the money from the sale of an asset -- so you should consider using financial account funds to pay pressing bills first. Bills that threaten an asset of the estate, like a mortgage payment on your father's house, should be addressed as soon as possible.

File a Tax Return

You may be required to pay federal and state estate or inheritance tax on your father's estate. The exact requirements for state estate or inheritance taxes vary by area, and not all states impose such a tax. Federal estate tax is imposed on an estate with a value of more than $3,500,000 as of 2011. A final state and federal income tax return for your father as a deceased taxpayer is usually necessary even if estate tax is not due.

Fulfill Will Provisions

You are responsible for distributing your father's estate as outlined in his will. Items that are specifically left to a particular person must be given to that person, and you need to obtain a signed release from each person that indicates she received the item. The release is then filed with the probate court as proof of delivery. A release is needed from each person you distribute your father's assets to.


Your father's estate may be considered "insolvent" if there is not enough money or assets to pay his bills. State probate laws determine if your father's estate is insolvent and which creditors must be paid first if all bills cannot be paid.

As executor, you are also responsible for the upkeep of your father's assets until they are sold or distributed . Real estate, such as a house your father owned, must be cared for to prevent damage. Rare collections or items, like a classic car, should be properly stored until sold or given to an heir.