Can an Executor Decide Who Gets What?

can an executor decide who gets what

As you work on your estate plan, you will likely create a will. In your will, you determine how to divide your estate. You will also name beneficiaries, who are the people that receive your assets. It is also essential to appoint an executor. The executor of your will is the person who distributes the estate assets once you pass away. So in creating a will, listing beneficiaries, and naming an executor, you may wonder what an executor does and how much power they have. Another common question is does the executor decide who gets what? The executor must follow your instructions in the will and fulfill your wishes, but they do have some power over how they complete probate.

Continue reading this guide to learn more about executors, what their duties are, and how much power they have during the probate process. At Johnson Legal, we are devoted to protecting what matters most to our clients. We specialize in estate planning, and some of our services include estate administration, probate, and last wills and testaments.

Call us today to schedule your estate planning consultation.

What is an Executor?

An executor of a will is the person the decedent appoints to oversee the estate once they pass away. The executor manages the probate process, which involves handling the decedent’s debts, taxes, and more. One of their primary responsibilities is distributing the deceased person’s estate assets to their beneficiaries. Usually, the decedent leaves specific instructions for the executor to follow. As the executor of the decedent’s will, this person is bound to carry out the will as the decedent defined.

Some other executor duties include:

  • Filing the will with the probate court
  • Taking inventory of the estate
  • Appraising the total value of the estate
  • Maintaining the decedent’s property until it is distributed or sold
  • Communicating with beneficiaries

Being an executor and going through probate can be complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. So if you’re an executor and need help with probate, contact a probate attorney from Johnson Legal.

Can an Executor Decide Who Gets What?

Once the decedent passes away, it is the executor’s duty to carry out the will. They have many responsibilities and powers. However, the executor does not get to decide who gets what. It is the fiduciary duty of the executor to distribute the decedent’s estate funds as stated in the will. The executor does not have the power to go against the will or change what the will says.

However, if the decedent does not leave clear directions in their will, then the executor may have some say in how the will gets completed. For example, the decedent may have instructions for their wealth but not their estate property. In this situation, the executor must follow the guidelines for the decedent’s funds, but they have to decide how to distribute the physical assets.

If you’re an executor of a will and have additional questions or concerns, it may be time to consult with an attorney.

What Power Does an Executor Have?

While an executor cannot decide who gets what, they have many other powers. First, they must confirm their position as the executor in probate court. Once the court legally recognizes them as the executor, they have the power to act on behalf of the decedent’s estate. This means the executor has to fulfill the probate process by administering the estate.

The executor has the power to perform duties, such as caring for the decedent’s property or even pets. For instance, if the decedent gives their house to their minor grandchildren, then the executor must maintain the property until the beneficiaries are able to own the house. Additionally, if the decedent does not have enough funds to pay off their remaining debts, the executor can sell the property. The money the executor receives from selling the decedent’s estate would be used to take care of their unpaid debts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other restrictions does the executor have?
The executor cannot change the will or decide which beneficiaries receive certain assets of the decedent’s estate. Additionally, the executor cannot prohibit the beneficiaries from contesting the will. Finally, the executor cannot sign a will for the decedent.

What happens if there is a dispute?
Disputes may occur if the beneficiaries or family members disagree with the will. For example, they might not like how the assets are distributed according to the will. The family member or beneficiary may contest the will if the dispute cannot be resolved. They may go to court to confirm the validity of the will and the appointed executor.

What happens if the decedent does not have a will?
If the decedent does not have a will, an executor will be appointed in court. Then, the executor must distribute assets in accordance with succession laws in the area where the decedent lived.

Contact Johnson Legal Today

Whether you’re creating an estate plan to protect your assets or you’re an executor who’s going through the probate process, Johnson Legal can help. We are dedicated to helping our clients with estate planning, probate, wills, and more,

Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

Author Bio

Shane T. Johnson is the CEO and Managing Partner of Johnson Legal, an estate planning and business law firm in Wilmington, NC. With years of experience in estate and business law, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including small business formation and purchasing, estate planning, probate, domestic violence, and other legal cases.

Shane received his Juris Doctor from the University of Wyoming and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the Best Probate Lawyers in Wilmington by

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