Loans, Taxes, and Law

Can an Executor Decide Who Gets What?

When someone passes away, there estate needs to be distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries. This distribution is typically handled by an executor, who is named in the will. But does the executor have total power to decide who gets what? Let’s take a look. Also read our guide on how long does the executor have to pay the beneficiaries.

What Does an Executor Do?

The executor has impotent responsibilities when it comes to managing the estate. Their main jobs are to inventory the assets, pay any debts and taxes owed, and then distribute whatever is left to the beneficiaries. This all needs to be done accordance with the instructions in the will.

Can They Change What the Will Says?

Despite being in charge of giving out assets, the executor cannot actually change what the will states. If the will declares that Cousin Betty gets the antique car collection, the executor must ensure Betty gets those cars. They cannot decide to give the cars to Uncle Joe instead if that contradicts the will.

What About With No Will?

Things work differently if there’s no will. In that case, the state intestacy laws determine who gets what. The executor will need to distribute the assets based on the heirarchy spelled out in those laws, which typically means spouses and children first. So without a will, the executor has less flexibility.

Misusing Their Power

Executors need to be careful not to misuse their power by going against the will’s distributions or intestacy laws. If beneficiaries believe the executor is behaving unethically or illegally, they can take legal action to have the executor removed or otherwise punished. For example, if an executor keeps a valuable asset for themselves that was designated for someone else, they could face fines or even criminal theft charges.


An executor has an important job in distributing the assets of an estate. However, they must follow the directions outlined in the deceased’s will or intestacy laws if no will exists. Executors cannot simply decide to distribute assets however they choose. Beneficiaries should pay attention to the executor’s actions and be prepared to take legal action if the executor oversteps their authority.

Call to Action

If you have experience as an executor or beneficiary navigating this process, share your story in the comments! It can help others understand the limitations and responsibilities of an executor when deciding who gets what in an estate.


Q1: Can an executor change a will?

No, an executor cannot change a will. Their role is to administer the estate as per the instructions in the will.

Q2: What can beneficiaries do if they disagree with the executor’s actions?

Beneficiaries can challenge the executor’s actions in court if they believe the executor is not acting in the best interest of the estate or following the terms of the will.

Q3: Can an executor also be a beneficiary?

Yes, it’s quite common for an executor to also be a beneficiary, especially when the executor is a close family member of the deceased.

Read More: Guide To Establishing An Emergency Fund

Harper Lewis
Harper Lewis, a senior author, seamlessly blends literary prowess with a profound understanding of law and insightful opinions. Her multifaceted expertise enriches her work, offering readers a unique perspective at the intersection of literature and legal insight.

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