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An executor (female: executrix), in the broadest sense, is someone who is responsible for executing, or following through, on an assigned task or duty.
An executor is a legal term referring to a person named by the maker of a will or nominated by the testator, to carry out the directions of the will. Typically, the executor is the person responsible for offering the will for probate, although it is not required that he/she fulfill this. The executor's duties also include disbursing property to the beneficiaries as designated in the will, obtaining information of potential heirs, collecting and arranging for payment of debts of the estate and approving or disapproving creditors' claims. An executor will make sure estate taxes are calculated, necessary forms are filed, and tax payments are made. They will also assist the attorney with the estate. Additionally, the executor acts as a legal conveyor who designates where the donations will be sent using the information left in bequests, whether they be sent to charity or other organizations. In most circumstances, the executor is the representative of the estate for all purposes, and has the ability to sue or be sued on behalf of the estate. The executor holds legal title to the estate property, but may not use the title or property for his/her own benefit, unless permitted by the terms of the will.
A person who deals with a deceased person's property without proper authority is known as an executor de son tort. Such a person's actions may subsequently be ratified by the lawful executors or administrators if the actions do not contradict the substantive provisions of the deceased's will or the rights of heirs at law.
When there is no will, a person is said to have died intestate—"without testimony." As a result, there is no tangible "testimony" to follow, and hence there can be no executor. If there is no will or the executors named in a will do not wish to act, an administrator of the deceased's estate may instead be appointed. The generic term for executors or administrators is personal representative. In England and Wales, when a person dies intestate in a nursing home, and has no family members who can be traced, those responsible for their care automatically become their executors. Under Scottish law, a personal representative of any kind is referred to as an executor, using executor nominate to refer to an executor and executor dative to an administrator.
An executor has no automatic entitlement to be paid as it would conflict with his duties to manage the affairs in the best financial interests of the estate. Nonetheless, compensation can be directed within the will or on application to a court. In the latter case, many jurisdictions set limits on reasonable compensation.
In recent years, custom "executors' insurance" policies have entered the marketplace. These are currently available in countries including: Canada, England and Wales. They are often taken up by non-professional executors - typically friends or family of the deceased - who may be worried about potentially making an error during the probate process and/or uncomfortable about exposing themselves to unlimited personal financial and legal liability. Many find such cover an attractive proposition as the vast majority of wills allow reasonable expenses, such as the cost of the policy, to be reclaimed from the deceased's estate.