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 about ten months to a year, 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 or the beneficiaries.

The first thing a named executor should do is to consult with an attorney to begin the process of filing probate in the state where the decedent lived or owned real estate. There are different deadlines that a named executor should be aware of as some states have strict time limits on how long after a decedent dies the executor has to file the will with the court, while others have no time limits. In addition, there may be deadlines for the executor to prepare a list of all of the deceased’s assets and file this inventory with the court. 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 nationwide, according to the software company EstateExec.

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:

  • Assets. The more complicated the assets, the longer it will take the executor to sort everything out. If the estate consists of just a bank account, things will go more quickly than if the estate consists of  real estate, multiple bank accounts, stocks, brokerage accounts, valuables, and/or a family business. 
  • Contested Estate. If the beneficiaries are fighting amongst themselves or with the executor, the probate process is going to take longer…much longer. One way an unhappy family member can hold up probate is by contesting the will. 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, check with an attorney in the decedent’s state to find out what to expect. 

A nominated Executor is allowed to refuse the role. If you are considering this, read our article When to Say No to Being an Executor.

If you need assistance with probate, or would like information on how to avoid probate, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.