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What Happens If the Executor of a Will Dies Before the Testator?

While that’s a rarity, an executor’s death can create complications because another person must fill the executor role. Naming a successor executor is one way to avoid that scenario and other contingencies that might affect the settlement of an estate, says Yahoo Finance’s recent article entitled What Happens If the Executor of My Will Dies?

If the executor dies during the probate process, a successor executor can complete the estate settlement. However, if there’s no successor executor named in the decedent’s will, the court will name one.

If you’re the person who’s making a will, the easiest way to avoid complications that may result from the death of an executor is to name one or more individuals to succeed them. Therefore, if the executor dies before you do or during the probate process, someone else will be waiting in the wings to take up the reins.

Consider putting some of your assets into a trust, letting them bypass probate altogether. With a trust, a trustee is in charge of managing assets on behalf of the beneficiaries that you name. In this case, you must designate a trustee, which could be the same person as your executor but does not have to be.

Placing assets in trust could avoid complications following the death of an executor. That’s because the trustee would be responsible for distributing them anyway. Instead of waiting for probate to conclude, the trust beneficiaries could access their inheritance according to the terms you set in the trust document.

Acting as an executor entails certain responsibilities, and you must follow a fiduciary code of conduct. Before someone can be appointed executor, the court may require a probate bond to be issued. Probate bonds ensure estate executors act in good faith and don’t abuse their privileges. The bond protects the estate’s beneficiaries, not the executor, but the executor is the one responsible for purchasing it.

A probate bond is essentially an insurance policy against any financial losses that might occur, if the executor abuses their power or otherwise mismanages the estate. The amount of the bond can correspond to the amount of the estate.

If all the parties involved in the settlement of an estate agree, then a bond waiver can be submitted to the court.

However, this can leave the estate’s beneficiaries open to losses if the executor fails to do their job correctly.

Wills, trusts, and estate planning for everyone. To book a call in Anchorage, Alaska, please contact Mitch Wyatt at or call 907-277-0300.

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