The Executor's Guide

Settling A Loved One's Estate or Trust

The step-by-step guide to serving as an executor

Settle an estate with this all-in-one guide for executors. The Executor's Guide will help you tackle your duties and make sense of the complex legal procedures and terminology. It explains how to:

  • figure out who inherits property if there is no will
  • handle basic items like paying bills
  • claim life insurance, Social Security, and other benefits
  • understand a will and distribute the estate accordingly
  • determine whether probate is necessary

See below for a full product description.


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  • Product Details
  • If you need to wrap up the affairs of a loved one, you might feel overwhelmed—especially when you’re grieving. But you can do it, and this book will show you how.

    The Executor’s Guide will lead you through the unfamiliar territory of legal procedures and terminology. You’ll learn what to do right away and what can wait. Find help on:

    • preparing for the job of executor
    • claiming life insurance, Social Security, and other benefits
    • making sense of a will (and what to do if there is no will)
    • determining whether probate is necessary
    • filing taxes
    • navigating probate court proceedings
    • dealing with family members, and
    • working with lawyers, appraisers, accountants, and other experts

    The 10th edition contains updated tables outlining key points of each state’s laws.

    Applies in all states except Louisiana.

    “An excellent guide to the responsibilities of executors and trustees…”—Chicago Tribune

    “Covers the gamut of estate chores and helps you get through them.”—Kiplinger’s Retirement Report


    Number of Pages
    Included Forms

    These forms are accessible online. After purchase, you’ll find the link in Appendix B.

    • Information for My Executor
    • Information for Emergencies
    • Summary of the Will
    • Inventory of Assets and Debts
  • About the Author
    • Mary Randolph, J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

      Mary Randolph earned her law degree from the UC Berkeley School of Law. She is the author of The Executor's Guide: Settling a Loved One's Estate or Trust8 Ways to Avoid Probate, and other books about law for nonlawyers. She has been a guest on The Today Show and has been interviewed by many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and more.

  • Table of Contents
  • Part I: Getting Ready

    The Executor’s Legal Companion

    • How This Book Can Help

    1. Overview

    • What Executors Do
    • If You’ a Trustee
    • Your Legal Duty
    • Payment for Serving as an Executor
    • Dealing With Emotions—Yours and Your Relatives’

    2. If You’re Asked to Be an Executor

    • Should You Accept the Job?
    • Making the Job Manageable

    Part II: First Steps

    3. The First Week

    • Organ, Tissue, and Body Donation
    • Death Certificate and Medical Certification
    • Autopsy
    • Burial or Cremation
    • Funerals and Memorial Services
    • Other Tasks During the First Few Days

    4. The First Month

    • Set Up a Filing System
    • Order Copies of the Death Certificate
    • Find the Will
    • Find Other Documents That Leave Property
    • Send Notifications of the Death
    • Keep Property Secure
    • Sort Through Personal Belongings

    5. Claiming Life Insurance, Social Security, and Other Benefits

    • Life Insurance and Annuity Proceeds
    • Social Security Benefits
    • Pensions
    • Veterans Benefits
    • Wages Owed the Deceased Person
    • The Family Allowance and Other Allowances
    • Other Possible Benefits and Claims

    Part III: Taking Care of the Estate

    6. Making Sense of the Will

    • Does the Will Appear Valid?
    • Reading the Will
    • Gifts to Groups of People
    • Disinheritance
    • Events That Affect Who Inherits

    7. If There’s No Will

    • Who’s in Charge
    • Who Gets What: The Basic Rules
    • Understanding Key Terms
    • If an Heir Has Died
    • Taking Care of Minor Children

    8. Taking Inventory

    • Step 1. Look for Assets
    • Step 2. Make a List of Assets
    • Step 3. Estimate the Value
    • Step 4. Add Up Debts
    • Step 5. Determine How Title Was Held

    9. Managing Assets and Paying Bills

    • Your Legal Duties
    • Keeping Good Records
    • Setting Up an Estate Bank Account
    • Managing Tangible Assets
    • Managing Cash Accounts and Investments
    • Digital Assets
    • Paying Claims and Debts
    • Giving Property to Beneficiaries
    • Selling Assets
    • Handling a Business

    10. Caring for Children and Their Property

    • Immediate Concerns
    • Raising a Child
    • Managing a Child’s Property
    • Personal and Practical Issues

    11. Taxes

    • Overview
    • The Deceased Person’s Income Tax Return: Form 1040
    • The Estate’s Income Tax: Form 1041
    • Income Tax on Trusts
    • Federal Estate Tax
    • State Inheritance and Estate Taxes
    • Other Taxes
    • Beneficiaries and Taxes
    • Typical Situations

    Part IV: Transferring Property

    12. Property That Doesn’t Go Through Probate

    • Common Assets That Don’t Go Through Probate
    • Joint Tenancy Property
    • Tenancy by the Entirety Property
    • Community Property
    • Property Held in a Living Trust
    • Real Estate That Qualifies as a Homestead
    • Property That Passes to Immediate Family by Law
    • Salary or Wages
    • Payable-on-Death Bank Accounts
    • Life Insurance Proceeds
    • Retirement Accounts
    • Health Savings Accounts
    • Securities Registered in Transfer-on-Death Form
    • Savings Bonds
    • Vehicles
    • Pension Plan Distributions and Other Death Benefits
    • Real Estate Left by a Transfer-on-Death Deed
    • Personal Property in “Small Estates”

    13. Transferring Joint Tenancy and Other Survivorship Property

    • Real Estate
    • Bank Accounts
    • Securities
    • Vehicles
    • Savings Bonds
    • If Title Wasn’t Cleared When the First Joint Tenant Died

    14. Transferring Community Property

    • Your Transfer Options
    • Survivorship Community Property
    • Community Property Agreements
    • State Probate Shortcuts
    • When the Second Spouse Dies

    15. Claiming Money in Retirement Plans

    • Retirement Plans: The Basics
    • Who’s the Beneficiary?
    • If the Surviving Spouse Is the Beneficiary
    • Non-spouse Beneficiaries
    • Special Rules for Multiple Beneficiaries
    • If a Trust Is the Beneficiary
    • If There Is No “Designated Beneficiary”
    • If the Beneficiary Has Died
    • If No Beneficiary Was Named
    • If the Estate Is the Beneficiary

    16. Claiming Payable-on-Death Assets

    • If the Asset Was Co-Owned
    • The Effect of Divorce on POD Beneficiaries
    • How Beneficiaries Can Claim Assets

    17. Special Procedures for Small Estates

    • Are You Handling a Small Estate?
    • Claiming Property With Affidavits
    • Using Simplified Probate

     18. The Regular Probate Process

    • Common Questions About Probate
    • The Typical Probate Process
    • The Process in Uniform Probate Code States
    • Probate in Another State
    • Disputes During Probate
    • Do You Need a Lawyer?
    • If You Go It Alone: Working With the Court

    Part V: Handling Trusts

    19. Wrapping Up a Simple Living Trust

    • How Simple Living Trusts Work
    • If You’re the Surviving Spouse
    • Who Serves as Successor Trustee
    • The Affidavit of Assumption of Duties
    • What’s in the Trust
    • Notifying Beneficiaries
    • Getting Valuable Property Appraised
    • Registering the Trust
    • Debts and Expenses
    • Transferring Trust Property
    • Ending the Trust

    20. Managing a Child’s Trust

    • How a Child’s Trust Works
    • The Trustee’s Job
    • Accepting or Declining the Trustee’s Job
    • Gathering Trust Property
    • Keeping Beneficiaries Informed
    • Registering the Trust
    • Investing Trust Property
    • Keeping Good Records
    • Handling Trust Taxes
    • Distributing Property
    • If You Want to Resign
    • Ending the Trust

    Part VI: Getting More Help

    21. Finding More Information

    • Libraries
    • Online Resources
    • Finding Forms
    • Finding Definitions
    • Researching Specific Questions

    22. Lawyers and Other Experts

    • When to Get Help
    • Deciding What You Want From a Lawyer
    • Finding a Lawyer
    • Choosing a Lawyer
    • Working With a Lawyer
    • Paying a Lawyer
    • Solving Problems With Your Lawyer


    Appendix A: State Information

    Appendix B: How to Use the Downloadable Forms on the Nolo Website

    • Editing RTFs
    • Forms Available on the Nolo Website


  • Sample Chapter
  • Chapter 1: Overview

    What does an executor do, exactly? If you’re like many people, you probably have only a vague idea. Essentially, the executor’s job is to carry out the deceased person’s wishes—making sure that assets go to the people or organizations the deceased person wanted to inherit them. But of course, this simple fact barely hints at the work involved or the emotional aspects of the job. It’s not always easy, but it’s a job that you can do well if you bring to it good measures of patience, common sense, and persistence. Some help from this book, and occasionally from knowledgeable professionals, won’t hurt, either.

    Winding up an estate will probably take from 6 to 18 months, depending on the circumstances and the law in your state. Some probate courts are also more backlogged than others. Here’s how it usually goes:

    • First week: Immediate practical decisions
    • Next several months: Financial and legal matters
    • One (occasionally two) years: Taxes

    What Executors Do

    An executor is the person named in a will to handle the property of someone who has died. If the deceased did not leave a will, the probate court will name an “administrator” to this role. Both executors and administrators are also called “personal representatives.” In this book, we default to the common term “executor,” but the responsibilities for these roles are essentially the same.

    As executor, you must collect and take care of the deceased person’s assets, pay debts, and distribute what’s left to the people who inherit it. Sounds pretty straightforward and, in many instances, it is. Here’s a little more detail.

    Gather the deceased person’s assets. This part shouldn’t be hard, especially if you’re familiar with the deceased

    person’s finances and the assets are typical things, such as a house, a car, and bank and investment accounts. But if you’re unprepared, and the deceased person leaves behind murky finances and jumbled records, you might have a tougher time knowing what property you’re supposed to take charge of. (The best strategy is to get things straightened out before the death, as explained in Chapter 2; if that’s not possible, see Chapter 4 for help with finding and making sense of financial records and other papers.)

    Take care of property. You must safeguard the deceased person’s property (both real estate and “personal property,” which is essentially everything else) until you hand it over to beneficiaries. For example, if a house or condo is empty, and a car is parked at the curb, you’ll need to make sure both are secure. You might also have to decide whether to sell certain assets, either to raise cash or to avoid seeing an asset lose significant value. When it comes to managing investments, your duty is not to turn a big profit, but to avoid losing money.

    Pay debts and taxes. Most people don’t leave behind outsized debts or tax bills, so this isn’t normally a problem. But if the estate doesn’t contain enough money to go around, it can be a headache. You aren’t personally liable for the deceased person’s debts (unless you were married, in which case you might be); you’ll pay them from the deceased person’s assets.

    You’ll have to file income tax returns on behalf of the deceased person and, if the estate goes through probate and receives income, on behalf of the estate as well. You almost certainly won’t need to file a federal estate tax return; very few estates are big enough to require them. (See Chapter 11.) Thirteen states collect their own estate tax, however, and most impose the tax at a lower threshold than the federal estate tax. (Two states impose their state estate tax on estates over $1 million in size—this is the lowest threshold among the states.) Check Appendix A to see whether your state imposes a state estate tax and, if so, the threshold at which it begins.

    Distribute what’s left. You’ll transfer assets to the people who inherit them under the will or under state law if there’s no will.

    This often involves going to probate court, but not always.

    Summary of an Executor’s Duties

    □ Find the will, if any.

    □ Notify the post office, utility companies, credit card companies, banks, and other businesses of the death.

    □ Notify the Social Security Administration and any agencies from which the deceased person was receiving benefits.

    □ Inventory all assets and, if necessary, have valuable ones appraised.

    □ Determine whether probate is necessary; if it is, conduct the probate court proceeding or hire a lawyer to do it (or help you).

    □ If there’s a living trust, work with the successor trustee to coordinate bill paying, property management, and other tasks.

    □ Notify beneficiaries named in the will or people entitled to inherit under state law. Take good care of estate assets until you turn them over to the beneficiaries.

    □ Solicit beneficiaries’ input on and consent to important decisions, such as selling assets or changing investments.

    □ Collect money owed to the estate—for example, final wages or insurance benefits. Pay bills owed by the estate.

    □ File final income tax returns for the deceased person.

    □ If the estate was very large, hire a tax lawyer to prepare estate tax returns. Distribute the assets.

    Whether you need to go through probate will depend on what kinds of assets the deceased person left and how much estate planning the person did. Many kinds of assets (for example, individual retirement accounts, payable-on-death bank or brokerage accounts, and life insurance policies) can be transferred by the institutions themselves, without the need for probate, but only if the owner filled out the forms that the institutions required for a post-death transfer.

    In recent years, many states have simplified probate significantly, so even if probate is required, it won’t drag on like a court case in a 19th-century novel. And almost all states now offer simplified probate for “small estates.” (See Chapter 17.) What qualifies as a small estate might surprise you: In some states, estates worth hundreds of thousands of dollars can slip under the wire.

    Help out. Finally, you might find yourself helping beneficiaries with matters that aren’t, strictly speaking, within your authority as executor. For example, life insurance proceeds aren’t part of the estate, but a beneficiary might want you to help claim policy proceeds.

    If You’re a Trustee

    Many people use living trusts as substitutes for wills, so you might find yourself tapped for the job of trustee rather than, or in addition to, executor. If this is the case, you’ll want to check out the valuable information in The Trustee’s Legal Companion, by Liza Hanks and Carol Elias Zolla (Nolo).

    How does a living trust work? A simple living trust is used to leave property to loved ones, like a will, but with one important distinction: The living trust avoids probate. If you’re wrapping up this kind of trust, you can often carry out your duties in several months. That’s because you don’t have to get probate court approval. You can simply transfer trust property directly to the people named in the trust document. However, if the trust is set up so that an adult manages property left to children (often grandchildren), your job as trustee might last years as you invest and spend trust property on behalf of the children until they’re grown.

    Even if you’re a trustee, you might very well still need The Executor’s Guide. Here are two common scenarios in which you’ll need to act as an executor or administrator in addition to a trustee:

    • The deceased person made a will naming you as executor, in addition to the living trust naming you as “successor trustee” (the technical term for the person who takes over when the trust maker dies). This might happen in the situations described just below.
    • The deceased person made a living trust and did not make a will, but owned property outside of the trust—maybe because they didn’t correctly transfer property to the trust, or maybe because they acquired property shortly before they died and never got around to it.

    In the latter scenario, unless all of the non-trust property transfers outside of probate or using other special procedures (see Chapters 12–17), you’ll need to go through the regular probate process. It’s counterintuitive that you’d need to take the estate through probate when a trust exists and there wasn’t a will, but it’s possible.

    As for the first scenario, why would someone who made a living trust also make a will? In fact, two types of wills very frequently accompany a living trust:

    • a simple backup will that names beneficiaries for any non-trust property, or
    • a “pour-over will” that names the trust as the beneficiary of any non-trust property.

    Adding a will to “catch” non-trust property helps make the estate plan more airtight by ensuring that every single piece of property goes to a specified beneficiary. In addition, only wills can name guardians for minor children; living trusts can’t.

    The examples below illustrate the common situations in which a person handling a trust might still need to deal with wills and probate: a trust with a stand-alone will, a trust with a “pour-over will,” and a trust where the decedent failed to add property to their trust and also left no will.

    Example: John’s living trust directed the successor trustee to distribute his assets equally among his children. He forgot that, in his will made years earlier, he directed that the income from his invention, which was licensed, be given to his mentor, Pete. John never revoked that old will. When John died, the royalties from his invention had to go through probate court before ultimately going to Pete. John’s children got equal shares of the rest of John’s estate (according to the trust terms) without having to wait for probate.

    Example: Alice established a living trust giving all trust property to her children. She also wrote a will specifying that any assets not in the trust be distributed to (“poured over” into) the trust. Alice dutifully transferred all appropriate items to the trust shortly after she made it. But a few years later, she inherited her father’s vintage Corvette and took title in her name alone (rather than transferring it to the trust). When Alice died, the successor trustee had to go through a probate proceeding in order to “distribute” the car to the trust, as directed by the will. The car was then sold and the proceeds divided among Alice’s children, as her trust directed.

    Example: Let’s return to Alice, with the same facts except that her will specified that any assets not in the trust be given to her sister (rather than distributed to the trust). When Alice died, the Corvette went through probate before being given to her sister. The property in Alice’s living trust was given to her children.

    Example: Let’s use the same facts again, except that Alice did not make a will at all. The probate court appointed the successor trustee the “administrator” of the estate to handle the probate of the Corvette. The car was distributed according to the state laws of intestate succession, which set out which relatives get property when someone dies without a will. The property in Alice’s living trust was given to her children.

    To summarize, this book (The Executor’s Guide) will help you when you’ve been named the executor in a will (whether or not a living trust exists), or when the deceased person did not make an estate plan and you’re taking charge as the administrator or estate representative. It might also come in handy if you’re a trustee and discover that the deceased person owned property that was never transferred to the trust.

    The Trustee’s Legal Companion, by Liza Hanks and Carol Elias Zolla (Nolo), will be invaluable to you if you’ve been named the successor trustee of a living trust.

    Your Legal Duty

    As executor, you are in charge of property that belongs to other people (beneficiaries and creditors). You are also following instructions left in a will by someone who is no longer there to supervise you. Because such a situation leaves a lot of room for mischief by a dishonest person, the law requires you to act with the highest ethical

    standards. You must follow a set of well-established rules and procedures.

    An executor has what’s called a “fiduciary duty.” It means that you must always act in the best interest of the estate—not your own interests. For example, if you and the deceased person owned a business together, and you want to buy the deceased’s half interest, you must follow a scrupulously fair, open, and competitive process to offer the business interest for sale. The process would have to be run solely for the estate’s benefit, not yours.

    Here are a few examples of acts that would violate your legal duty and could get you into trouble:

    • benefiting personally at the expense of the estate—for example, selling yourself estate property
    • selling an asset during probate if you don’t have authority
    • investing estate assets recklessly— for example, in a volatile stock, or
    • arranging things so that one beneficiary ends up with an unfairly large share of assets.

    If you violate your fiduciary duty, beneficiaries can sue you for any loss you caused them, and a court can remove you from your post. In some states, a court can remove an executor not only for misconduct, but also if all of the beneficiaries request it.

    An executor who steals money from the estate can go to jail, just like anyone else who steals. For example, a Massachusetts executor who was in charge of $550,000 from a wrongful death lawsuit over her mother’s death didn’t split the money with her siblings as she should have under state law. Instead, she and her husband kept most of it; they were both sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment. (“Brockton woman sentenced after cheating her siblings out of thousands in settlement in mother’s death,” Boston Globe, Jan. 25, 2012.)

    Payment for Serving as Executor

    You’re probably entitled (under the terms of the will or by state law) to compensation for your work as executor. Whether to accept this compensation is a personal decision.

    Some family members feel uncomfortable accepting money. Others might believe it’s only fair that they be compensated for their time. And some might decide based on whether the responsibilities are particularly onerous or long-lasting, or whether they’ve been chosen because of special skills—such as the ability to manage the deceased person’s business until it can be sold. All of these are reasonable approaches.

    However, there’s one practical reason to decline a fee: It’s taxable income. If you’re inheriting everything anyway, you’re better off waiving the fee and instead inheriting the money, which won’t be subject to income tax. (The exception to this rule is if estate tax will be due, and your personal income tax rate is lower than the estate tax rate; in this rare situation, it might be wise to take the payment as compensation. See Chapter 11 for more on estate taxes.)

    Just how much you’re entitled to be paid depends on the terms of the will and your state’s law. If the will doesn’t set out a specific fee or hourly rate, state law in most places will allow you to claim a “reasonable” fee. It’s up to you to decide what’s reasonable. But if beneficiaries or creditors object, and there’s a probate court proceeding, they can complain to the court, which will review the fee.

    Some states (New York and California, for example) let executors claim a set percentage of the value of the probate estate. Still a few others (such as Texas) give executors a percentage of the money that flows in and out of the estate, to try to reflect the amount of work the executor must do to manage assets.

    Dealing With Emotions—Yours and Your Relatives’

    Unless you’re a professional, handling an estate is much more than just a legal and financial job. When you’re acting on behalf of a family member or close friend, you must deal with powerful and sometimes complicated feelings about the loss.

    As executor, you will probably also have to work with the emotions of others. Beneficiaries and family members can be cooperative and patient—or grasping and unhelpful. Their demands might weigh more heavily on you than does probate court paperwork. On the other hand, you might garner much-needed support from the network of family and friends.

    You’ll have to develop your own strategies for dealing with difficult family members. One good use of a lawyer is to have that person be a buffer between you and them. A few simple actions, however, are always helpful:

    • Keep beneficiaries informed about what’s happening (or not happening) with regular letters or email.
    • Make sure you have legal authority for everything you do.
    • Keep careful records of all actions you take.

    Probably the best way to head off spats, and even lawsuits, is regular communication. You might think you don’t have anything to report—but that could be the time beneficiaries most want to hear from you. Even brief email messages, sent regularly, can calm people’s anxieties.

    Some executors find it helpful to hold family meetings to discuss ongoing issues. Others avoid such gatherings like the plague, because they know they will only ignite smoldering problems. Some families hire a family counselor or therapist to help people talk—and listen—to each other

    and work through problems. You’ll have to discover, through trial and error, what works for you and your family.

    What Happens to Inheritances?

    According to one study, Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who inherit money save about half of it and spend or lose the rest. Within two years, a third of people who inherit money have negative savings—that is, they’re in debt. (These figures come from Jay L. Zagorsky’s 2012 paper, “Do people save or spend their inheritances? Understanding what happens to inherited wealth,” which was published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.)

    Financial experts agree on some common-sense advice for people who inherit money.

    Wait. Take some time to think about short- and long-term goals. Talk to your family about priorities: College? Retirement? Travel? Home repair? Paying off debt? If the inheritance is significant, consider consulting with a financial adviser.

    Evaluate your financial situation. Look at your emergency savings (it’s always a good idea to have enough cash to live on for a few months) and your retirement account.

    Don’t make promises. It’s a wonderful impulse to want to help family or friends by helping to pay for school, car repairs, a house, or whatever else they might need. But if you make promises before realistically evaluating your own needs and circumstances, you might not be able to keep them—and risk damaging the relationships you hoped to nurture.

    We hope you enjoyed this sample. The complete book is available for sale here at


38 Reviews
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star


By Vicki C.

I received my book several weeks ago and I am very pleased with all the information I learned reading through it. Easy to lookuo and refer back to the book as needed

Posted on 6/3/2024


By Anonymous

As it turned out, I did not need the guide and did not use it. As advised by NOLO, I donated the book to the local library and was issued a credit on my purchase.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Straight forward how-to advice

By Dale M.

I'm settling a fairly simple estate. Thankfully, we planned ahead, so many of the financial assets were TOD (transfer on death), requiring no probate. There are no complex situations such as this book describes, so much of the book is not relevant to my situation. But the organization of The Executor's Guide is brilliant: it sets forth what you need do and when you need do it. For first-time executors like myself it is invaluable to be given a heads-up on the type of record-keeping you need to do and files you'll have to set up.

Posted on 6/3/2024


By Lee C.

After finding a copy of The Executor's Guide at the local library I knew right away that I needed one of my own. It is and will be essential for me and my executrix.Easy to understand and well organized.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Outstanding reference

By Wesley G.

Outstanding reference.

Posted on 6/3/2024


By Don R.

A useful and comprehensive guide. Recommended.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Outstanding Book!!

By Gary P.

Outstanding. Ms. Randolph's book is very thorough and very easy to understand. I picked up, when I read it before (I checked it out then at our public library), a money- and time-saving tip on transfers-on-death of real property in certain states. I remembered how good it was when I needed it for my mother's probate recently, and bought it when I couldn't get it (someone had checked it out and failed to return it to the library) when I really needed it.

Posted on 6/3/2024


By Richard B.

Great – just what I wanted.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Invaluable Resource

By Anonymous

This book is a must-have for anyone who is or will be an executor for an estate--large or small--in the future! It gives clear and practical step-by-step guidance from start to finish on how to be an executor. I can't think of a single issue that this book didn't address, whether it be dealing with the deceased's vehicle, not being able to find a will, or difficult family members. Some things I already knew, such as TOD for financial accounts, but it was good to have my knowledge verified. However, I had no idea that some states allow a TOD deed for a house. Thanks to that information, my loved one registered a TOD deed for his house that will now avoid probate. Reading the book ahead of time can lead to discussions with a loved one about what he/she can do now to make the executor's job easier when the time comes. If that isn't possible, the book is an incredible resource for anyone who is currently an executor.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Thorough and readable

By Laura C.

I just rewrote my Will, and it's kind of complicated. I bought this book to accompany the Will, and I read it through. It answered questions I didn't know I had. Ideally, the Executor would have this in hand BEFORE they need it.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Everthing one needs to know written in plain English.

By Dayle R. Reilly

The Executor's Guide 8th edition by Mary Randolph, J. D. is the first book where I found information written in simple language for a lay person. The examples and tips in the book actually help to understand what to do. This is an excellent resource book that provides the knowledge needed when consulting with a trust attorney.

Posted on 6/3/2024



exactly what I needed

Posted on 6/3/2024

Save yourself time, money, and headaches when serving as an executor

By Juliann W.

I first used the Executor's Guide in 2004 when I served as executor for my mother's estate. I could have served as executor without the Executor's Guide. However, the Executor's Guide saved me a significant amount of time (figuring out what I needed to do and how), money (paying a lawyer to do things that I was able to do myself), and angst. I have since given the Executor's Guide to four other people who were first time executors, to guide them through the process.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Be prepared.

By Jackie B.

I gave this as an Xmas gift to my oldest son, my executor when needed. I haven't read it but while previewing it before the purchase, I was very impressed.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Be prepared.

By Jackie B.

I gave this book to my oldest son, executor of my estate. His in-laws are alive and I suspect he will handling their estate also. It's an easy read and a great gift.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Excellent Translation of Legalese!

By Ann T.

I purchased this book to help write a "Letter of Instruction" as an accompaniment to legal estate planning documents (e.g., will and trust). The verbiage in the legal documents is nearly indecipherable to one with no training in legalese. This book makes it all so clear! Thank you Nolo!

Posted on 6/3/2024

Wish I had bought this sooner!

By Robert P.

This book is essential for all who may face a death in the family (including their own). It's easy to read, whether as a whole or in certain parts. My need was to guide me in my first (and hopefully last) experience as a personal representative for a loved one. I eventually concluded that the estate would have to go through probate right after Thanksgiving last year. So I hired a lawyer and eventually became an unsupervised PR. I relied on Google to get started and did a lot of stuff that "The Executor's Guide" outlined. I eventually bought the book on pi day (March 14). I wish I had done so sooner; it would have saved me a lot of worry and time. The book gives clear guidance and great examples and is organized so it's easy to scan or read and to find a particular piece of information. It also is generous in citing other sources (articles, IRS forms, web sites). I recommend "The Executor's Guide" with no reservations.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Very helpful

By Nolo C.

This book helped as I ventured into settling my son’s estate. Very helpful as I proceed on this very difficult journey. As always, Nolo Press books are well written and extremely helpful.

Posted on 6/3/2024

a place to get guidance

By Keith W.

I have purchased this book more than once. I have provided this book to friends that have loss loved ones. it is a good resource to help people with the challenging task of setting their loved ones passing

Posted on 6/3/2024

Great book to guide you in the process of settling an estate of a loved one.

By Darrell G.

This publication really helped in giving a guide to the process of fulfilling your loved ones last wishes. Not only does it guide you on the steps you need to take but also explains some of the terminology that are used in state and federal laws pertaining to a decedents estate.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Not a very helpful resource for us.

By Mary D.

I did not find this NOLO resource to be very helpful. I am a big fan of NOLO, and have purchased and used many of it's books and online tools. This guide lacked the "how to" guidance and resources that I have counted on from NOLO. Although it provided some helpful background information, the forms, checklists and templates were lacking. I wound up developing my own checklist and administrative plan, with timelines and tasks. It would have been nice if this guide could have provided that resource.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Good Book

By R Y.

When you have to read up on this topic, this is a good source of info.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Well worth the investment


I was the Executor for, sadly, my mom's estate earlier this year. I chose to settle her estate myself without the help of an attorney. The experience with probate was a learning process at a time when you are dealing with the loss of a loved one. Everyone I dealt with was kind and as helpful as they could be, but still it was difficult dealing with a probate system which is archaic and in need of bringing it into the 21st century. After going through this process for my mom, I decided I wasn't going to leave this world without giving my children some advanced direction for my wife and me.

That is when I came across “The Executor's Guide”, which I borrowed from our library. It was full of information that would have made my experience as Executor simpler, and even more that pertained to my own situation. There was no way that you could read this book and say I got it all, and that’s when I decided to buy the book and the PDF download.

Since then I’ve restated our trusts and put together a to-do list for my daughter, which I call, Responsibilities of the Successor Trustee. Without the aid of this book I could not have put together such a complete list. In one of the last items on my list, I indicate to my daughter that once she assumes her duties as Successor Trustee, she should make sure that in addition to my list, she should contact NOLO and make certain she has the latest version of this book or its replacement. Hopefully there will be numerous revisions before that happens.

Posted on 6/3/2024

A Place to Turn When There is Nowhere to Turn

By Martha N.

My mother made zero preparations for her death. This book was a source of information and comfort at a stressful time, when I was thrown into the deep end of the pool and didn't know how to swim. Very grateful for this life preserver.

Posted on 6/3/2024


By V. M.

Answers a lot of questions in easy to understand language. I would recommend to anyone in this position.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Excellent Guide to a Complex Subject


A very detailed book to assist me and my adult children in settling our estate at some point in the future.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Helpful, but not sufficient

By Stephen W.

This is very clear and readable and helps the successor trustee understand what is needed and how to look at the tasks to liquidate a trust. My parents "simple trust" made reference to an "appointment trust" and then a "disclaimer trust". It was not clear to us why they were different and which one applied to our responsibilities. As a result, we are working with an estate attorney. I would have preferred the book to be divided between Trust/trustee and Will/executor rather than having interspersed sections.

Posted on 6/3/2024

Great Help and Guidance

By Leonard B.

This guide is very helpful for administrating the process of executing for your deceased relative. This guide gave me the confidence to support my relatives wishes, that "I take care of things for her."

Posted on 6/3/2024

Liked the fact that downloads were included

By Stephanie R.

I just started reading, but so far, I appreciate the fact that the ebook can get updates and has editable forms

Posted on 6/3/2024

Rock Solid! Buy This Now!

By Wm. S.

Buy this now! The Executor of anyone's estate needs this BEFORE the passing! Clears the fog & emotions! Don't hesitate, have this available for reference! Exceptional! Thank You Nolo!

Posted on 6/3/2024

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