Can an Executor Decide Who Gets What?

In this article, we’re going to answer “can an executor decide who gets what?”

While the short answer is “no”, there are important nuances you should be aware of, which we’ll share below.

That said, if you’re just looking to prepare for the future, you may be interested in our free series of content dedicated to opening a private bank account and accessing wealth management.

Feel free to use the table of contents to jump ahead to the sections most relevant to you.

Table of Contents

  1. Can an Executor Decide Who Gets What?
  2. Executor vs Power of Attorney
  3. What Power Does an Executor of a Will Have?
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
  5. Ready to Explore Your Options?

Can an Executor Decide Who Gets What?

No, an Executor cannot decide who gets what. Instead, the executor must distribute assets in line with the written instructions provided to them. In fact, if beneficiaries expect that an executor is not following the instructions, they can personally take them to court in most jurisdictions.

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Executor vs Power of Attorney

The main difference between an executor and a power of attorney is that an executor is someone appointed to distribute assets in accordance with the instructions left after a person has died and a power of attorney is empowered to carry out specific actions for someone that is living. In other words, the authority granted to an executor begins when a person dies while the authority granted to a power of attorney ends when a person dies.

Does an Executor Have More Power Than a Power of Attorney?

Executor and power of attorney fulfill two very different roles. Therefore neither has more or less power than the other because they have very different purposes. As mentioned above, the executor’s role starts after an individual dies while the power of attorney’s role ends when a person dies.

What Power Does an Executor of a Will Have?

The executor of a will does have the power to carry out specific activities on behalf of an estate. However, their power lies within the written instructions provided and their fiduciary duties to manage the assets of the estate and the distribution of estate assets to any beneficiaries.

Does an Executor Have the Authority From Probate Court to Manage Estate Assets?

Yes, an executor has the authority from probate court to manage estate assets. However, it’s important to remember that all actions taken by the executor must be reasonable and in line with the interests of the estate.

In other words, beneficiaries can challenge the actions of an executor that appear out of line with the interests of the estate. For this reason, it is often best practice for executors to maintain detailed and transparent records of all decisions made regarding estate assets and finances.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are two of the most common questions that we receive from people looking into if an executor can decide who gets what. If you have further questions you would like answered, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us directly.

What Are Executor’s Duties?

The executor’s duties are the management of estate finances, including debts, liabilities, taxes, and assets. After all outstanding liabilities, debts, and taxes are settled, the executor is then responsible for the distribution of any remaining assets to estate beneficiaries, per the instructions provided to them.

Does a Will Override Beneficiary Designation?

In most cases, a beneficiary designation does override a will. This means that assets can be sent directly to individuals regardless of the specific terms set out in a will. That said, if you are looking for more clarity on this, you should consult a legal professional that is familiar with your exact situation.

Who Has the Most Power in a Will?

Who has the most power in a will depends on whether the testator (the person creating the will) has already passed. If they have yet to pass, then they continue to have the most power in a will, as they can make amendments as they desire. However, if they have passed, the executor appointed to settle the financial obligations of an estate and carry out the instructions of the will has the most power.

That said, it’s important to note that an executor’s powers include settling the financials and distributing any remaining assets. In other words, they do not have the power to make decisions that are not reasonably in the best interest of the estate.

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