Can the Executor Give Personal Items Away Without an Heir's Approval?

By Maggie Lourdes

An executor, also called a personal representative, is a person appointed in a will to administer a decedent's estate. An executor must give a decedent's personal items to his heirs according to the terms of the will. If no will exists, the decedent's estate is classified as intestate. Intestate estates have court-appointed executors who must follow the state's intestate succession statutes when dividing items among legal heirs.

Honoring Last Wishes

Generally, an executor has legal authority to carry out a decedent's last wishes. A probate judge issues an order granting the executor full power to accomplish the instructions left in a decedent's will. This means an executor does not need an heir's approval to give away personal items according to the terms of the will. An heir, however, may object in probate court if the executor varies from the decedent's wishes.

Vague Wills

Sometimes a will may not specifically address certain personal items or family heirlooms. For example, Aunt Mary dies and leaves a diamond wedding ring. She fails to leave it to anyone in particular. Because the ring is both valuable and sentimental, her heirs may argue over who should receive it. Generally, an executor may settle such a dispute by selling the item for fair market value. The proceeds are then divided according to the terms of the will. An executor is typically empowered by a court to make such a sale without seeking permission from the heirs.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Intestate Divisions

Decedents who die intestate have failed to express their last wishes in writing. Courts encourage executors of intestate estates to work with the heirs-at-law when distributing personal items. If the legal heirs are not able to reach an agreement for division, the executor should not attempt to choose among heirs. The executor should sell the items, then divide the proceeds according to the state's intestate succession statutes. The executor generally does not need permission from the legal heirs to sell disputed personal items.

Objecting Heirs

An heir who believes an executor is giving away a decedent's personal items in a manner that's not in accordance with a will or intestate succession statutes should file a motion with the probate court. An heir may demand, through a motion, the executor follow the decedent's last wishes or be replaced by another executor. An heir may also bring a general will contest to stop the executor from giving away estate property. A will contest entails broad allegations such as the will is fraudulent or was signed under duress. A will contest would prohibit an executor from giving away a decedent's personal items until the heirs and court flush out the allegations in the contest claim.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Does an Executor Have Rights of the Decedent?

References

Related articles

Does the Executor Have Authority Over the Will?

An executor is the person named in a will to administer the estate of the person who died. The executor may be a bank or trust company instead of an individual. While state law varies as to the exact duties of an executor, in general all executors must gather the estate's assets, pay creditors, then distribute remaining estate assets in accordance with the will's directives, without any discretion to deviate from the will except in limited circumstances.

New York Estate Law When the Executor Dies

New York, like all other states, recognizes a written will as the proper method for making your wishes known as to the distribution of your assets when you die. The executor is the person named in the will to see that the terms of the will are carried out. If an executor dies before she has completed her duties, the court must appoint a new executor.

What Happens When the Executor of the Will Steals the Money?

Estate beneficiaries must move quickly if the estate executor is stealing. State laws set a window during which heirs can take action against an estate executor. A will executor is responsible for managing a deceased's person's estate, and she is named in the will itself by the deceased person.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Legal Questions Regarding the Executor's Handling of the Will

An executor is the person who oversees the estate of a person who died with a will. A myriad of duties are handled by ...

Can an Executor of a Will Purchase the Car in the Estate?

A will designates an executor, or personal representative, to carry out the wishes of the person who made the will. An ...

Illinois Statutes on Appointing an Executor

The Illinois Probate Act is a set of statutory sections that directs the administration of probate estates after people ...

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 ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED