Rights of the Executor of a Will

By A.L. Kennedy

The executor of a will is responsible for managing the estate, wrapping up its financial affairs and following the instructions in the will regarding who gets what. In order to do his job properly, the executor of a will receives certain rights. These rights are transferred to an executor by a probate court, usually by using a legal document known as letters testamentary.


The executor of an estate is responsible for paying the estate's bills and informing government offices, insurers and other interested parties that the testator -- the person who made the will -- has passed. To fulfill these duties, the executor has the right to communicate with the deceased person's bank, creditors, accountant and others who served the testator's needs during his lifetime and who would ordinarily keep their information about the testator confidential.

Managing Assets

Since the executor is responsible both for paying the estate's bills and managing its assets until they can be given to the beneficiaries, the executor has several rights related to the estate's finances. For instance, the executor may sell or liquidate estate assets to pay the estate's bills if necessary. The executor may also arrange for certain assets to be managed and the bills to be paid from the estate. For instance, if the estate includes a vacation home, the executor may use estate funds to pay for repairs and upkeep, or to continue paying the salaries of staff already hired to maintain the vacation home.

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Hiring Professionals

An executor's duties may include inventorying the estate, paying the final taxes and defending the validity of the will in a court challenge. In order to carry out these duties, the executor has a right to hire professionals to help him. Professionals an executor may hire include professional appraisers, accountants and attorneys. The executor may pay these professionals out of the estate's assets.

Compensation and Reimbursement

In all states, an executor has the right to be reimbursed for necessary expenses out of the probate estate. Common expenses include postage, photocopies and the cost of filing any documents required by the probate court. If the executor must travel in order to carry out his duties, he may also have his travel expenses reimbursed by the estate. Also, an executor has the right to be compensated for his work on the estate. How the executor receives his compensation varies by state. Some state laws allow an executor to take a small percentage of the estate, while others permit him to earn an hourly rate for his work.

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Executor Duties & Rights in Handling a Will



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What Are the Heir's Rights Under a Probated Will?

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An executor has a duty to act in the best interest of the estate, and refusing to probate an estate may be cause for the executor to be removed. State probate laws differ, but the Uniform Probate Code, approved by the National Conference of Commissioners On Uniform State Laws, provides a general framework for handling an executor refusing to move the probate process along. In addition to removal, an executor may be held personally liable for breaching his fiduciary duty to the probate estate.

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