The Role of an Executor in Michigan


An executor, or personal representative, carries out the terms and provisions of a deceased person’s will. Typically, the creator of the will (also known as the testator) will name an executor who is responsible for closing out the testator’s estate, which means taking care of any remaining financial obligations and ensuring that beneficiaries named in the will receive their assets.

If the testator does not name an executor, Michigan law specifies, in order of priority, who will be appointed as the testator’s personal representative. The surviving spouse has first priority, but only if he or she is a named beneficiary.

It’s important to name an executor who you trust, like a friend or family member, to ensure that your estate is properly taken care of.

Who May Serve As Executor?


Michigan permits any adult to serve as an executor — except someone who has been convicted of a felony — including adults who live in another state. (Practically, however, it might not be a good idea to name an out-of-state executor.) An adult is anyone who is at least 18 years old. The court is required to appoint your named executor unless someone challenges your selection and presents evidence that the person is incompetent or otherwise unsuitable to serve.

What Are the Executor’s Responsibilities?

The executor’s legal responsibilities include:

  • Initiating probate of the will;
  • Collecting the testator’s assets and taking an inventory;
  • Collecting any debts owed to the testator’s estate;
  • Paying any debts claimed against the estate;
  • Distributing assets among named beneficiaries; and
  • Closing the estate.

Initiating Probate

It’s the executor’s responsibility to open the estate for probate. That involves obtaining a valid death certificate and an original copy of the will, and providing notice to creditors and any other interested parties.

If the executor is not an attorney, he or she should contact an experienced probate attorney to help with the process.

Taking an Inventory of the Testator’s Assets

The executor has to know what the testator owned before he or she can properly distribute the estate. This might involve having items (like jewelry or cars) appraised.

Collecting the Testator’s Debts

One of the first things the executor should do is make sure the testator received all of the salary and benefits owed to him or her. The testator should all inquire into any outstanding debts owed to the estate.

Paying the Testator’s Debts

While some debts die with you, others survive death. For example, the executor must use the estate’s assets to pay any state or federal taxes that the testator might owe.

Distributing Assets

When any creditor claims against the estate have been settled, the executor may distribute assets to beneficiaries named in the will. (This is when the executor may encounter a will contest from someone who claims that he or she should have inherited under the will if not for undue influence, fraud, etc.)

Closing the Estate

Once the claims have been settled and the assets distributed, the estate can be closed. The executor must provide the probate court with evidence that everything has been taken care of.

Contact a Grand Rapids Estate Planning Attorney

If you have been named as the executor of a will, contact one of our experienced Holland probate lawyers today. We can guide you through the probate process. If you are preparing your will, we can also help you choose someone to serve as executor.

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