How to Sign Legal Documents as the Executor of a Will

An executor is a person named in a will and appointed by a court to oversee the process of probating an estate and act as its legal representative. The executor performs many duties such as paying the taxes, bills and other expenses and distributing the estate to beneficiaries. These actions generate a lot of legal documentation. It is the executor's role as legal representative to sign these documents on behalf of the estate.

Duties of an Executor

The executor is responsible for 'probate', which is the process of winding up the deceased's estate. Much of the probate process involves signing legal documents. These documents may include deeds for transferring property, tax returns, documents for closing accounts and other assorted contracts. It is the executor's role as legal representative to sign these documents on behalf of the estate.

However, it is important to sign these forms in such a way so that it is clear the signee is acting only on behalf of the estate and not agreeing to take on any personal liability or responsibility for a particular transaction.

Signing as an Executor

With any document, the starting point is to check to see if it has a designated area for you to sign in your capacity as executor. Follow that process if it does.

Many of the documents you will need to sign as executor of an estate are provided by another party who routinely deals with estate executors. As a result, many of these documents will provide a means for you to signal you are signing as an executor.

For example, the Internal Revenue Service requires an executor to sign a decedent’s final tax return by entering the term “deceased,” the decedent’s name and date of death across the top of the return. The executor then signs the return with his name followed by the phrase “personal representative.”

Ask for Assistance

If the document does not state how to sign as an executor, ask the other party how to do so. The party requesting you sign the document should be able to help you with this task. Asking how to sign as an executor also ensures the other party has notice prior to you signing the contract that you are signing only as the estate's representative.

If you are unsure about the process, consider consulting with a licensed attorney to ensure you comply with all legal responsibilities inherent in your role as defined by the estate.

Add an Executor Provision

Include an “executor” provision in the contract, if the document can be amended. A possible clause you may want to include in a contract you are signing as executor is the following:

“This contract is signed by John Doe as executor of the estate of Harry Doe. John Doe’s signature represents a promise to pay only to the extent that the estate’s assets are sufficient and it is agreed that any judgment will only be satisfied out of the estate. John Doe is not personally liable for this contact.”