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.