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Idaho Estate Planning What it Means to be the Executor of an Estate

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

One of the major focuses of estate planning is to provide an organized and efficient way of dealing with your money, property, and other assets after you die. Specifically, it is designed to give you the ability to decide who you want these items to be distributed to after your debts and expenses are all paid.

Through extensive experience and knowledge, our team of premier Idaho estate planning attorneys can provide counsel and advice to each of our clients to help them create a customized and individualized estate plan that will meet their needs in protection themselves while they are alive and providing for their family and loved ones after they die. Our team consists of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each attorney on our team is seasoned with years of experience. This alone is not enough to qualify us to be the premier estate planning and probate firm in Idaho. Rather, it is our experience combined with our knowledge that allows us to meet and resolve the questions and concerns our clients have.

The focus of this article is to discuss what it means to be the executor of an estate. Keep in mind that this article is just a summary, or a place to begin. After reading this article, encourage you to download our Estate Planning Questionnaire which is a simple document you can type into on your computer and save. Our clients tell us the Questionnaire made the process of gathering information simple and easy. Once this is done, we also encourage you to call and schedule a free 30-minute consultation to discuss the information on the Questionnaire and about probate so we can answer all your questions. Our goal is to help our clients understand what they need to know for their own estate plan and for probating the estate of a family member or loved one.

What is an Executor?

An executor (which in Idaho is called a “personal representative” even though these two different names means the same thing) is the person who is given legal authority to deal with the money, property, and other assets of a person’s estate after they die. This person is given legal authority through a court probate process.

While the person is alive, they can do everything they need to do with their own property. They can deal with their real estate and homes, they can handle their bank accounts, they can pay their own bills, and take care of any other business that comes up. However, after a person dies, the same thing still needs to happen. The problem is, until a person is given authority to do these things, no one can do these things. This is why having an Executor is so important.

Who Will Become the Executor?

There are only two ways that a person can be chosen to be the executor. The first and the best way is when a person has a written last will and testament where they nominate who they want to appoint as their executor. This person could be a spouse, or a child, or other family member, or it could be a close family friend. The point is, through a written Will you have the ability of nominating whoever you want to be your executor.

The second way occurs when there is no written Will. This is the default system. It occurs through Idaho’s laws of intestacy which are a set of statutes that control how a probate will occur when there is no written Will.

Specifically, Idaho Code § 15-3-203 creates a list of priorities of persons who can apply to become the executor of an estate after a person dies. According to the statutes the will nomination comes first. After that, their surviving spouse is the next person in priority. Following that, other heirs of the decedent which would include children, parents, siblings, and so forth. Finally, if no one else steps up to do it, a creditor can become the executor.

It is far better to nominate who you want to be your executor through a written Will than leaving it to the statutes and individuals who decide they want to do it. The reason for this is that it avoids potential and costly legal fights about who should be appointed as the executor by the court.

What Does an Executor Do?

Once appointed by the Court, the executor is responsible to protect and preserve the estate so that it can be used to pay the debts and expenses of the decedent. Additionally, the executor has a fiduciary responsibility to distribute the estate to whoever is determined to be the beneficiaries of the decedent.

Additionally, the executor takes possession of all the decedent’s property so that it can be preserved. In many instances the decedent’s property is sold with the money coming back to the estate so that debts and expenses can be paid, such as funeral expenses, final medical expenses as well as regular bills like mortgage payments and utilities bills. The executor is the only person who has legal authority to do these things on behalf of the decedent’s estate.

Once all debts and expenses are paid, and the appropriate amount of time has gone by, the role of the executor is to distribute the money, property, and other Assets in the estate to the beneficiaries of the decedent. These beneficiaries could be heirs, which means relatives, or they could be complete strangers.

If the decedent has a written Will, they can name whoever they want as their beneficiaries. This could include Charities, strangers, or other individuals that you would not normally think of. When there is no written Will, the beneficiaries are determined by the intestate statutes. Under these statutes, the beneficiaries are typically determined to be the family members of the decedent.

If you have been nominated or named to be the executor of someone’s estate, and you have questions or concerns, we can help. We have assisted thousands of executors through the probate process and we are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist An Idaho Estate Planning Attorney To Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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