Does an Executor Have Rights of the Decedent?

By Maggie Lourdes

An executor, also called a personal representative, has the job of winding up the financial affairs of a deceased person's estate. An executor is often said to step into, or stand in, the shoes of a decedent. The saying refers to the fact an executor, in many ways, is empowered with the same legal rights a decedent would have had if she were still living.

An executor, also called a personal representative, has the job of winding up the financial affairs of a deceased person's estate. An executor is often said to step into, or stand in, the shoes of a decedent. The saying refers to the fact an executor, in many ways, is empowered with the same legal rights a decedent would have had if she were still living.

Executor's Duties

A probate judge confers powerful legal rights upon an executor through a court order of appointment. The order allows an executor to carry on such tasks as gathering up a decedent's money, paying estate debts, making burial arrangements, selling real estate, filing tax returns and taking possession of a decedent's personal property. The court order must be legally honored, as if the decedent herself were conducting the estate's activities. In this regard, the executor has the same right to conduct a decedent's financial affairs as the decedent would have had if she were alive.

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Following the Will

An executor's powers are not without limitation. An executor steps into the deceased person's shoes for the sole purpose of carrying out her last wishes. As such, the executor must always act in furtherance of the directions given in the decedent's will. For example, an executor cannot ignore a gift in the will and instead transfer a piece of property to someone else. The decedent had a right to change her will during her lifetime, but this power does not pass to the executor upon her death.

Following the Law

Sometimes a person dies intestate, meaning without a will. Executors administering intestate estates must look to state probate statutes to determine how to distribute an estate. The intestate executor may carry out all of the same acts as an executor administering a will. However, he is guided by statutes rather than the last wishes described in a will.

Checks and Balances

An executor who exceeds his legal authority may be removed as executor by the probate court. He stands in the shoes of the decedent, but only within the confines of a judge's order. A court may deny an executor compensation for his services, or order him to pay damages to the estate, if he goes beyond his legal powers.

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What Is the Meaning of "Executor of an Estate"?

References

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Can an Executor of a Will Give a Power of Attorney to Someone From Prison?

The executor of an estate possesses only those powers granted to him under a will and by state law. A power of attorney granting a prisoner authority over an estate may be possible depending on the powers granted to the executor. Although an executor has the right to delegate authority to anyone he deems fit, he must do so while keeping the fiduciary duty he owes to the estate in mind.

Removal of an Executor of Estate's Responsibilities

An estate executor is responsible for handling the decedent's, or deceased person's, estate including bill payment and property distribution. The executor is named in the decedent's will; he receives his authority from court through legal proceedings known as probate. If an executor's responsibilities are removed before he completes his duties, a new person must be appointed to finish settling the estate.

"Interested Person" Probate Definition

If you have a financial stake in the estate of a decedent or a legal obligation to the estate, probate law defines you as an "interested person." Although state laws and definitions vary somewhat, they usually bear similar guidelines. Florida statutes, for example, define an interested person as anyone who is “affected by the outcome” of probate proceedings and this is the norm.

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