The 3 Primary Duties Of Executors — And Signs They Aren't Being Fulfilled

Probate is a time for the final legal steps to be taken in order to ensure that heirs receive the correct and appropriate distributions. But the person who has the most responsibility during this time — the executor — must fulfill their fiduciary role in order for this to happen. What are the primary components of that fiduciary duty? And what are some signs of failure to uphold it? Here's what you need to know.

The Duty of Care

A fiduciary is a person or persons who are responsible to act in the best interests of the beneficiary rather than their own interests. This starts with the duty to provide competent services to the estate. The executor may need to learn new tasks, consult with professionals, and research matters.

Failure to fulfill the duty of care can include not meeting court deadlines, not keeping records of accounting transactions, or not communicating with heirs and interested parties. While heirs shouldn't expect the executor to be perfect, they should take reasonable steps to perform all required duties correctly. 

The Duty of Impartiality

Executors have a special challenge as fiduciaries: to be impartial. Because the executor's duty is to all the beneficiaries of the estate, they must not favor any heirs to the detriment of others.

An adult child named as executor, for example, cannot give the best pieces of the estate's jewelry to the sibling they love the most. They also cannot ignore the rights of step-siblings if the will stipulates fair division of assets. And certainly, the executor cannot grant themselves special deals such as buying estate property at a significant discount. 

The Duty of Loyalty

Finally, how does loyalty fit into the executor's fiduciary responsibility? The executor first has to put the interests of the beneficiaries above that of any others — including themselves. They must work to protect the assets that heirs will receive, perform maintenance and repairs and make good investment choices. But they must also be loyal to the deceased estate owner by doing their best to fulfill their wishes. 

Where to Learn More

Has the executor of an estate to which you have an interest shown signs that they aren't fulfilling one or more of these duties? If so, start by learning more about the fiduciary responsibilities and the rights of estate beneficiaries. You may need to take legal action to protect yourself and your fellow heirs. Contact a probate law attorney in your state to get answers to your questions.  

About Me

Law Information Everyone Should Know

Hi, my name is Jessica Hawkins and welcome to my law blog. My mom and dad are both attorneys so I grew up with a lot of law talk around the house. Even though I decided not to become an attorney, I still have an interest in the law. Plus, when I visit my parents, that's all they want to talk about, so I still learn what I can about the law so that I can join in on the conversation. I wanted to create a blog to inform others about various aspects of the law. In this blog, you'll also find out about the different types of attorney specialties and when it's best to consult an attorney. I hope that you find my blog useful and that it helps to answer your law questions.



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