As an estate planning lawyer in Warwick, RI from a firm like McCarthy Law, LLC can explain, wills are incredibly important documents. When you create a will, you’re taking a solid step towards making life a little bit easier for your family and friends when you pass away – and while you won’t be around to worry about the legal headache, your beneficiaries will be able to breathe a little easier and focus on grieving, instead of complicated paperwork and infighting.

If you die without leaving behind a will, the state will instead choose a representative to handle your estate. This is typically a trusted family member such as a spouse or close blood relative, but no family is ever perfect: There are plenty of situations in which ex-spouses or estranged relatives might want to swoop in and claim more than their fair share of an estate, and they can contest the court’s choice of representative to put themselves in charge instead.

Fortunately, you can keep this from happening by working alongside an estate planning lawyer and creating a will that names an executor. Read on to learn more about what an executor does – and how your beneficiaries can act if the executor fails to live up to your expectations.

What Does an Executor Do?

An executor acts in the same capacity as a court-appointed representative: It’s their job to carry out the instructions left behind in your will. When you die, your assets aren’t automatically transferred to all of your beneficiaries. There’s a long and challenging process that must be followed to the letter before your family and friends see a single cent that you’ve left behind for them. This process is known as probate, and it’s up to the executor to oversee the entire show.

Your executor handles your estate throughout the entirety of the probate process. This means they’re in charge of tracking down all of your assets, ensuring your assets are valued properly, and making sure any outstanding debts and taxes are paid off before finally distributing your assets amongst your beneficiaries. It’s a lengthy process, and sometimes the instructions aren’t as clear as they should be.

What if the Executor Doesn’t Follow the Will?

The executor has legal authority to carry out the instructions of the will. However, this doesn’t mean they always play by the rules. There are some occasions where it’s more understandable if an executor doesn’t follow the instructions to the letter: Sometimes instructions are unclear, or there might be an ambiguity that’s up to the executor to figure out. However, if the executor fails to follow the instructions at all, it might be time to take legal action.

It’s possible for the probate court to remove an executor who has been failing to live up the expectations of the estate. This takes time, and an experienced legal team to build the case against them. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with an estate planning lawyer to discuss your next steps.