The executor of an estate and will is responsible for many things, but he is not personally responsible for paying off a decedent's debt with his own money. In some states an estate executor can be held personally liable for a decedent's debts if she has been found negligent or violated other probate-specific state laws. Always consult with a licensed probate attorney for your state before taking on the duties of an executor.
Death Notification Responsibilities
The executor of an estate and will is responsible for making sure all death-notice requirements are met in the time required by law. Some states require the executor to publish death notices in local newspapers for several weeks, while others only require the executor to send death notices to creditors, beneficiaries, heirs and other interested parties for the estate.
Asset Identification Responsibilities
An estate executor is responsible for cataloging all assets and their current value. Estate assets include real property such as a home, land or vehicle, and personal property such as bank accounts, retirement funds and valuable collectibles.
Debt Payment Responsibilities
An estate executor creates a list of all known debt claims against the estate and ensures that each is paid in full. When creditors receive death notifications, the state normally requires the creditor to list debt claims officially against the estate so that they can be paid. The estate executor is responsible for using the assets from the estate -- selling physical property from the estate if needed -- to pay off all outstanding debt claims. The executor does not use his own funds to pay off the estate's debt.
In several states the executor can be held personally liable for the debts of an estate if he is proven to have been negligent in the handling of the estate's affairs, if he did not follow state laws specifically, or if he was proven to have committed fraud in the administration of the estate.