Home | FAQs | Contact Us

How to Succeed as the Estate Executor

Being the executor or administrator of an estate can be a challenging task.  There are significant duties and obligations that are involved, and potential personal liability if things are not done right.  You should always have an attorney who is knowledgeable in probate law assist you when you are acting as the executor or administrator of an estate.  The information below will hopefully be of some general help and assistance, but is not to be considered as a substitute for legal advice regarding your specific estate and executor duties.

Fiduciary Duty.  An executor of an estate owes fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries of the estate, the same as the fiduciary duties of a trustee owes to the beneficiaries of a trust. As trustee of the estate’s property, the executor is subject to high fiduciary duties, and has a duty to protect the beneficiaries’ interest by fair dealing in good faith with fidelity and integrity.

Conflicts of Interest.  The executor’s personal interests cannot conflict with his fiduciary obligations to the estate.  If a conflict of interest is present, the conflict of interest alone may not disqualify the executor, but the executor’s  fiduciary duty will require him to disclose all relevant information, including the potential conflict of interest, to the estate beneficiaries.

Duty to Disclose.  A fiduciary relationship creates a duty on the part of the executor to disclose information to the persons impacted by the estate. A fiduciary relationship creates an affirmative duty to disclose:  the fiduciary cannot keep relevant information confidential from the person to whom the fiduciary duty is owed.

Other Duties.  There are many other duties owed by an executor in his fiduciary capacity.  Information must be kept confidential from outside parties, accurate and complete records must be maintained, accountings must be provided upon request, and so on.

Cowles & Thompson