Can the Executor of a Will Spend the Money Any Way He Wants?

By Regan Rondinelli-Haberek

When someone dies and leaves a will, the will instructs how the deceased's property should be distributed. Likely, it will name the individual responsible for managing the estate, the estate’s personal representative, or executor. The executor has a duty to prudently manage the estate so that debts are paid and each beneficiary receives his due distribution.

The Probate Process

Probate is the process in which the court authenticates a will and gives an executor the authority to manage and settle the decedent’s estate. The probate process begins with presenting the original will and supporting documents to the probate court. When the court is satisfied the will is authentic, it officially appoints the executor in a document called Letters Testamentary. Once Letters are issued, the executor can begin estate administration.

The Executor’s Role

Executors owe a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries to deal honestly in their best interests and to administer the estate according to the terms of the will. An executor should never commingle estate funds with personal funds. Any payments he makes to himself from the estate should be documented to show they were made for legitimate purposes. Most states require executors to provide an accounting to the beneficiaries, showing money flowing in and out of the estate. If a beneficiary feels that an executor is using estate property imprudently or for the executor’s own financial gain, he can petition the court to compel the executor to comply with the terms of the will, or he can file a petition for to have the executor removed.

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Does the Executor of Will Debt Need a Beneficiary's Signature to Pay Off Assets & Debts?

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If an Executor Is Not Available Who Could Execute a Will?

The executor is the person named in a will to administer an estate and fulfill the terms of the will, upon the passing of the will maker, or testator. However, a named executor may decline to take on the role of executor, or in some cases, may be deceased or simply unable to fulfill the role. A well-written will typically has provisions for these circumstances, or in the absence of these provisions, the court may intervene.

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.

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

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