No, you do not have to spend your own money as the Executor of a probate estate. The Executor is not personally responsible for any of the decedent’s bills or debt. However, it is common for an Executor to advance money for the estate in order to keep the lights on, pay court costs, retain an attorney, etc.
Keep in mind that it often takes time for the Executor to be appointed by the Probate Court. Then, the Executor has to gain access to the decedent’s bank accounts and may need to liquidate estate assets. In the meantime, utility bills and other important expenses often need to be paid. If the Executor pays those bills, he/she is entitled to be reimbursed from estate funds when those funds are available.
Family members often pay the decedent’s funeral bill and are entitled to be reimbursed by the estate. In fact, funeral bills are at the top of the priority list for estate bills to be paid. Family members are also entitled to be paid back for any legitimate costs advanced on behalf of the decedent's estate.
The Executor determines who to reimburse, which bills to pay, and when those reimbursements and payments should be made. There may be some bills that should be denied because they weren't submitted on time or they are not legally enforceable. The Executor makes that determination. He/she will also determine whether the amount of the decedent's debts is greater than the amount of the decedent's probate assets. If the debts exceed the assets, an insolvency must be filed at Probate Court.
The Executor should consult with an experienced probate attorney to determine the priority and timing of reimbursements and payment of estate bills.
Maria Shinn has 20 years of experience in probate administration. Contact Maria if you would like to schedule a probate consultation.