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California Probate, Will & Trust Lawyer > Blog > Probate > What Can An Executor Do And What Can’t They Do?

What Can An Executor Do And What Can’t They Do?


An executor acts as the personal representative of a decedent’s estate. Executors are expected to conduct themselves in a particular manner, meaning that there are things an executor can do and others they can’t do. An executor’s primary duty is to initiate and complete the probate process following a testator’s death. While trying to achieve this goal, an executor must ensure that they do only that which they are allowed to do. If an executor does something they aren’t supposed to do, lawsuits and conflicts might arise. Even if you are an executor as well as a beneficiary, you are held to a strict fiduciary standard when it comes to the actions you take while trying to achieve your primary goal.

What Are the Primary Responsibilities of an Executor?

Initiating and seeing the probate process to a conclusion is the primary duty of an executor. However, for an executor to complete the probate process, they need to undertake several functions. Some of the responsibilities of an executor include;

  • Locating the decedent’s will
  • Hiring a probate attorney
  • Locating and protecting the decedent’s assets
  • Notifying beneficiaries and creditors
  • Paying bills, debts, and taxes
  • Distributing assets
  • Closing the estate

The above list is basically the list of dos. On top of the above dos, an executor is expected to carry out tasks within applicable deadlines. An unwarranted delay can result in penalties and additional administrative problems. In some instances, executors end up being held personally liable for failing to complete tasks within applicable deadlines. Therefore, as an executor, it would be best for you to work with a qualified probate attorney that can help you to complete tasks within set deadlines.

What Can an Executor Not Do?

As an executor, there are several things you cannot do. Below are some of the don’ts executors need to be aware of. If you are an executor of a decedent’s estate, avoid these actions at all costs to safeguard beneficiaries’ interests. You owe the deceased person the duty of ensuring beneficiaries’ interests remain protected throughout the probate process. Also, avoid these actions to protect yourself.

Don’t Begin Performing Executor Duties Before the Court Officially Appoints You as an Executor.

Testators often name the people they want to act as personal representatives of their estates in their wills. Nonetheless, an executor is only considered an official representative after the court officially appoints them as an executor. It is only after your official appointment in court that you are allowed to begin taking action to manage the estate.

Don’t Alter Provisions in a Will

Just because you or someone else doesn’t like a particular provision in the decedent’s will, doesn’t mean you can change it. For example, if a family member tries to convince you to name them in the will, ask them to file a petition and contest the will, but don’t change the will.

Don’t Sign a Decedent’s Will

Even if you are named as an executor in a will, don’t sign an unsigned will on behalf of the decedent. If a decedent left an unsigned will, allow the state to manage the decedent’s estate according to the intestate succession laws.

Contact Us Today for Legal Help

If you need assistance probating a deceased person’s estate, contact a California probate lawyer at the office of the Probate Guy today to schedule a consultation.

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I love being a probate attorney. I love helping people through a very difficult time in their lives with the probate process. My practice focuses solely on probate matters. My job is to complete the probate process as efficiently and painlessly for my clients as possible. I have found that paying the upfront costs of probate adds unneeded stress, so I will advance all of the fees and costs for the probate. No money is required to complete the probate. I will be reimbursed at the end of the case when you receive your inheritance. Call me NOW to discuss your case for free.

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