In Last Wills, Trusts & Estates, Can an Executor Also Be a Beneficiary?

By Marie Murdock

A person may name his adult child or other trusted relative or friend as executor in his will. He may also name devisees, or individuals who will inherit his property at death, and beneficiaries, or those who will benefit from any testamentary trust established by his will. An executor may also be a devisee or beneficiary.


An executor, often referred to as a personal representative, is often chosen by the maker, or testator, of the will. This person is frequently the eldest or only child of the deceased, and is officially appointed by the court as executor to fulfill the will’s terms. An executor’s powers to act are given by the issuance of a document called letters testamentary by the court after filing of the will for probate. Occasionally, someone who does not inherit under the will may be named to serve as executor. A corporate executor, such as a financial trust company, may also be named as executor if the estate is large and complex.


A devisee is a person directly named in the will to inherit the property of the decedent. A devisee is often a relative of the deceased. If there is only one devisee who also happens to be the only child of the deceased as well as the executor, then he will be charged with the duty of transferring property out of the estate to himself.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Trust Beneficiaries

A will may establish a testamentary trust by its provisions. If the testamentary trust is a named devisee under the will, then property passes from the estate to the trust. The executor is then charged with the duty of transferring property into the trust to be managed by a trustee named in the will.

Objecting Heirs

Although an executor may be both a devisee under the will and a direct beneficiary of a testamentary trust, by law she has a fiduciary duty to see that the terms of the will are fulfilled. She does not have free reign to disburse the property according to her own desires if they are in violation of the will’s terms. In the event the executor violates this fiduciary duty, the remaining heirs or devisees under the will may petition the court to have her removed as executor, and she could face strict penalties under state law.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Can an Executor of a Will Also Be a Beneficiary?


Related articles

What If an Heir Dies?

The impact of an heir’s death on the probate process depends a great deal on whether he is also a beneficiary. An heir is a relative entitled to inherit from the decedent by law -- heirs inherit when the decedent dies without a will. Beneficiaries are those individuals named in a decedent’s will to receive his property. They may or may not be related to him. An individual can be both an heir and a beneficiary when he's bequeathed property in a will and is also related to the decedent, so he would have stood to inherit even if the decedent had not left a will.

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

An executor is a person who manages the estate of the deceased, known as the decedent. Also called a personal representative, the executor is typically named in a will. A judge chooses and appoints an estate administrator if a decedent dies intestate, or without a will, or does not name an executor in his will. An estate administrator basically has duties and powers equivalent to an executor. Each state has individual laws regarding estates and executorships.

Can I Change a Successor Trustee Without a Lawyer?

A successor trustee of a trust is the party appointed to replace the trustee named in the original trust deed. There are a number of ways to replace a successor trustee and none of them absolutely require that you retain a lawyer. Keep in mind that state laws vary somewhat on the process of replacing a successor trustee.

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

Related articles

The Executor & Trustee of a Will

Fiduciary powers, or powers to act on behalf of another, may be granted to both executors and trustees under a will. ...

Difference Between Heir & Legatee

You may hear the terms "heir" and "legatee" used interchangeably, but the words have two different legal meanings. An ...

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 ...

What Happens When an Executor of a Will Doesn't Carry Out What the Will Asks For?

A last will and testament represents the final wishes of a deceased person, and laws are in place to ensure that the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED