can an executor override a beneficiary

As an Executor of a Last Will and Testament, you have Fiduciary duties first and foremost to the Testator before any Beneficiary.

If you are an executor and needing to override a beneficiary, stay on the right side of the court so that your Fiduciary Duty is not compromised. Should it be found you were self-dealing, you can be compelled by the court to pay back all assets used in your behalf. 

Now, the question is, can an executor override a beneficiary? The answer is it depends. As the Executor, you have the responsibility to carry out the essential task of carrying out the Testator’s Last Will and Testament to the best of your ability. Therefore, your legal duty is first, to follow the law, seek counsel where necessary such that there is no breach of fiduciary duty.

With that said, when can you override a beneficiary?

The Last Will and Testament will give the amount of discretion an executor can use when settling an estate. Legally and in many instances, the Will gives a fairly wide latitude in protecting the assets of the estate.

Take away: Even if an executor, in good faith, attempts to sell a property within the estate, and it does not go through, a beneficiary can’t merely say they were acting in a nonfiduciary capacity. Court’s will refuse to remove an executor when good-faith is taken on behalf of the estate. 

What if the Executor makes a judgment call?  

The Executor must seek legal counsel when a situation is not clear. You see, the Executor is to carry out the intent of the Testator. If its deemed your actions are a severe breach of trust and fiduciary duty, you can be held liable. Being held responsible can result in civil liability.  

When should an Executor Seek Counsel?

With counsel, you always have a legal responsibility to the Testator first and foremost. You are to protect the estate, probate the Will, and get everyone paid. Should a beneficiary ask you to pay them out of sequence, i.e., distribute the estate to the beneficiary first before paying taxes, paying creditors, etc.. You would be in good standings to override the beneficiary.

Remember, in being an executor; you will be handling the finances but also people. Keep proper financial records, follow the will instructions, and protect the estate assets.

Lastly, when considering to override a beneficiary, make sure it doesn’t breach their beneficiary rights like communication.