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What an Executor Can and Cannot Do

Wills, Wills Variation | April 20, 2021

When it comes to wills and estates, executors play a crucial role in distributing assets and fulfilling the wishes of the deceased. When a person dies, their property and possessions come together to form their estate. This estate is then managed by an individual that was previously chosen by the will-maker known as an executor. An executor is tasked with sorting out the finances of the deceased including funeral costs and debts. They then distribute the rest of the estate according to the instructions in the will. Though executors are responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased, there are limits to what they can do. As experts in wills and estates, the team at Linley Welwood has provided some information on the responsibilities and abilities of executors.

What can an Executor do?

The job of an executor can be challenging, especially for more complicated estates. That is why it is important to understand exactly what they are able to do. Executors can:

  • Manage the assets and property of the testator (will-maker) until they are distributed to the correct beneficiaries.
  • Supervise the distribution of the testator’s estate as indicated in the will.
  • Validate the will in probate court if required.
  • Pay the debts, taxes, and other ongoing expenses of the deceased.

The executor is responsible for the majority of the decisions regarding the distribution of the testator’s estate. Though they must follow the wishes outlined in the will, they may have the power to make certain decisions if the testator did not clearly express their wishes or did not express them at all. It is important to note that once an executor starts dealing with estate assets, they are legally bound to continue until discharged by court order. There are also potential repercussions if an executor does not follow a will.

What an Executor Cannot do

Though an executor is responsible for many aspects of an estate, there are limits to their abilities. The following are some examples of what an executor cannot do:

  • Change the beneficiaries listed in the will.
  • Sign the will on behalf of the testator if it was not signed before they passed away.
  • Execute the will before the testator has passed away.
  • Stop beneficiaries from contesting the will.

If the beneficiaries feel that an executor is not fairly or adequately performing their duties, they can request the court or their legal counsel to become involved. In some cases, the court may remove the executor and appoint a new administrator of an estate.

To ensure that you are adequately prepared for the role of executor or need assistance naming an executor, reach out to the experts at Linley Welwood. Our team will work with you to ensure that you have everything you need to handle your will and estate.


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