What an Executor Cannot Do

What an Executor Cannot Do

The executor’s purpose is to ensure the distribution of the decedent’s estate assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the decedent’s wishes and the law. As a rule, the executor is accountable to the estate, the beneficiaries, and the probate court.

This ensures that the executor has enough power to settle the estate, but not enough to take advantage of the role. While the functions that an executor can carry out may seem to be a lot, there are some things that the executor cannot do as well.

So, what can an executor not do?

This article can help you find out exactly that!

What an Executor Cannot Do

    • Influence the testator

      The executor can take part in the estate planning process before the testator’s death to clarify information and ensure proper cataloging of assets. However, the executor is not allowed to influence the testator while creating the will in any way, especially to their benefit. This can invalidate the will when submitted in court.


    • Take action before the death of the testator

      An executor’s duties and rights go into effect only after the testator’s death. They are not allowed to take any action to execute the plan before that.


    • Take action before being appointed by the court

      An executor is accountable to the court and can start their work only after being formally appointed by the court. The court provides letters testamentary to approve their executor status. They are not allowed to do any executor-related duties prior to this.


    • Fail to communicate with beneficiaries

      The purpose of appointing an executor is to ensure the beneficiaries receive the benefits from the deceased’s estate. The executor is responsible for informing the beneficiaries about the death of the testator. Moreover, beneficiaries have the right to information about the probate process, including asset inventory, transaction information, etc.

      If the executor fails to fullfil any of these tasks, beneficiaries of the estate have the right to his status and appoint a new one in their place.


    • Go against the will or change it

      The duty of the executor is to simply execute the wishes of the deceased that have been outlined in the will. They are not allowed to make their own decisions or change anything in the will without the written consent of the decedent. If this is not possible, the executor can consult an attorney or clarify with the probate court. Doing otherwise can result in penalty.


    • Sign documents on behalf of the testator

      The executor’s duty is to only execute the plan signed by the testator. The executor is not allowed to make any decisions or sign any documents on behalf of the testator before or after their death. This can invalidate the will.

      The only people who can sign on behalf of the testator before they die are powers of attorney.


    • Mishandle the decedent’s assets

      While managing the estate assets, the executor has to ensure it is being maintained properly, especially from a financial perspective. This includes repairing the property, making payments, and conducting appraisals.

      Failing to managing the assets in this way can subject the executor to penalties.


    • Steal from the estate

      Commonly, stealing from an estate includes using estate money for personal uses, transferring assets to themselves, and sell the property to themselves below market value. Either of these cases can result in replacing them, forcing them to return the money, and even a criminal penalty.

      If the executor cannot locate the primary beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries, they need to consult with the probate court for guidance.


    • Not pay taxes of creditors

      The executor cannot start distributing assets to the beneficiaries without first paying off any pending debts and necessary taxes like estate, inheritance, and gift taxes. They have to inform the beneficiaries about the pending debts and settle them.

      Not doing so, again, can lead the executor to be subject to legal action or even be sued by the beneficiaries.


    • Stop beneficiaries from contesting the will

      Beneficiaries have the right to contest a will in a probate court. The executor can only try to alleviate the situation, but cannot stop them from doing so. Sometimes, it may be necessary for the executor to represent the estate in the court as well.


  • Fail to follow terms of the will

    The primary role of the executor is to follow the will. Failing to do so at any point can result in being legally penalized, removed from executor status or being sued by the beneficiaries.

Now that you know what an executor cannot do, create your own digital estate plan and appoint an executor to manage your digital assets to bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones!