Does the executor always have final say? It’s not that simple

If you’ve been named executor in a loved one’s will, you might be wondering if you, as executor, have final say in all matters related to the liquidation of the deceased’s property and personal belongings. There is no simple answer to this question. The executor does not “control” the estate. Rather, if you find yourself in this position, you should think of yourself as a fiduciary with an important responsibility to fulfill the deceased’s requests as faithfully as possible. 

In fact, according to NYCourts.gov, executors, administrators, or voluntary administrators (depending on the type of estate proceeding), “have a legal duty to act faithfully towards the estate and not put their personal interests ahead of duty.”

What does the executor actually do? The website goes on to state:

“Executors must carry out the wishes of the person who died as stated in the will. Administrators and voluntary administrators must settle the estate according to New York State laws of intestacy.

“Fiduciaries are responsible for protecting the property until all debts and taxes are paid and to promptly and efficiently administer the estate. In general, fiduciaries have three responsibilities:

  1. Collect, inventory and appraise all the assets of the estate.
  2. Pay the bills, taxes, estate expenses and creditors of the person who died.
  3. Transfer property according to the will or, if there is no will, then according to the law.”

In some cases, friends or family of the deceased may feel they have grounds to contest the will. The laws vary state-by-state, but in general, a properly drafted and signed will is very difficult to contest. When faced with these kinds of issues, it’s more important than ever for the executor to keep the deceased’s requests and wishes in mind. 

We’ve said before that while being named an executor is an honor, it is also difficult and time-consuming. If you are in this position and find it all a bit overwhelming, please contact an estate attorney and/or an estate liquidator to help facilitate the process.

15 comments on “Does the executor always have final say? It’s not that simple”

  • Yes, in my mothers rev. trust the POA, my mother asked the trustee my niece to make gifts of her property and to create a irrevocable trust and a SPN trust or trusts for her benefit and to the beneficiaries.My niece and her husband have no SN paperwork and I do.But niece did not follow my moms instructions on none of these orders.

  • in my mothers will 4 years ago my brother was to pay me $10000 which he never did carry out. He now has passed away -can I claim that against his estate?
    This is in South Australia.

    • We are not 100% clear on all the laws in South Australia. It would be wise for you to contact an attorney and explain your situation to them to get the best advice.

    • Your attorney can best advise you on the necessary time frame for transferring the title. So much depends on each situation as they are all a bit different.

  • my father recently passed he has left my uncle the executor. My uncle has helped with my parents finical needs over the years Example: 2 years age he paid 14K for a new roof and paid 5K for my mothers Dr visits.
    In Texas would he be allowed the deduct this from the estate for repayment or deduct it out of the estate?

    • Hi Michael… Laws vary by state. We would advise you to contact a lawyer in your area to get the best advice on your particular situation.

  • MY MUM AND DAD DIED. THEY LEFT A WILL STATING MY TWO BROTHERS AND MYSELF ALL HAVE EQUAL RIGHTS AND EVERYTHING SHARED BETWEEN THE THREE OF US. MY BROTHER JOHN HAS INFORMED ME HE HAS POWER OF ETTERNY WHICH HE WONT PROOF IT TO ME. HE ALSO GIVE ME NO INPUT OF THERE FUNERALS. I JUST ATTENDED THE FUNERAL. NO ACCESS TO ANY OF THERE ASHES ECT. WE HAVE A HOUSE THAT NEEDS TO BE SOLD, HE HAS CHANGED THE LOCKS AND I CANT GET ACSSESS TO MY FAMILY HOME. I DONT NO WHAT IS IN IT , IF ANYTHING IS LEFT. HE HAS PUT IT UP FOR SALE AT A PRICE TO HIGH ITS BEEN ON THE MARKET FOR NEARLY 3YRS AND WILL NOT DISCUSS ANYTHING WITH ME LAUGHS AND WONT ANSWER THE PHONE TO ME. PLEASE CAN YOU HELP ME ON WHAT I CAN DO TO GET SOME HELP THANKYOU CHRISTINE MADDISON

    • Christine,

      We’re sorry to hear about your situation. Have you contacted a lawyer in your area? We get many questions regarding various situations and the common answer in most cases is to speak with an attorney as laws very by state. An experience attorney will be able to guide and give you the best options on how to move forward.

  • My brother-in-law is executor of my brother’s will. All assets were divided. I was then told that my deceaased brother left money from his 401K and Pension to one of my sisters and one of my other brothers. My brother-in-law said the my deceased brothers wish was to give me a house. He said the money wasnt put in my name as I was going through a divorce at the time the will was written and they were afraid my ex would get half. My bil then started placing restrictions on the house that was to be purchased. Basically my bil wanted to run my life (financially) for the next 10 years. When I told my bil that I didn’t want interference in any part of my life by him (he’s controlling) then he said that HE would find something else to spend it on. Advice?

    • Hi Laura, Your best option would be to speak with an attorney on how to proceed. There is no clear cut answer or advice we would be able to give in this situation.

    • Barbara, every situation is different. Your best course of action would be to discuss your particular situation with an attorney.

  • My mother left me the executor of her estate she passed away 10years ago I have been living in the house making the monthly mortgage payments that includes the taxes and the insurance. Since I am the only one from my others sisters that have been taking care of the property the loan company put the house in my name since our mother passed away they knew she still owed on her home but on one came to help me so I did what my mother told me to do and that is to keep her home so that is what I am doing. I have 3 sisters in there 70’s that would like me to move out me and the other 3 sisters agree that I should continue living in the house. So it is 3 against me and 3 that are for me. It has been ten years with no help from none of my sisters I pay the taxes, insurance, and mortgage by myself. They mentioned that they want to take me to court. I want to know what do I do? Have not received any yet about court just wanted to know what to do if that happens because I have receipts for ten years. Just asking sincerely

    • Rita, Our best advice for you and many others in similar situations is to seek legal advice. An attorney will be able to advise you on the best course of action for your situation.

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