What Happens If the Executor of a Will Dies?

A will is a written expression of a person's wishes for the distribution of his estate upon death. The executor is the person designated in the will to make certain that the deceased person's wishes are fulfilled. When an executor dies before the estate is concluded, the court must appoint a new executor.


An executor is not required to have any particular knowledge about handling an estate. Executors hire attorneys and accountants to assist in the process of getting the will filed and probated. A person named in a will as the executor normally was chosen because the deceased person trusted him and had confidence in his ability to carry out the terms of the will. When the named executor dies before the estate is concluded and the assets distributed to the heirs, replacing the executor becomes the responsibility of the court.

Successor Named In Will

Naming a primary executor and a successor when preparing a will ensures that the person named to replace the deceased executor will be someone chosen by the person making the will -- known as the testator. Courts prefer to appoint an executor or successor executor who was chosen by the testator when the will was prepared.


A testator can name two people to act as coexecutors. Unless the testator has specified otherwise, upon the death of one of the coexecutors, the remaining person may continue to act as the sole executor. If the will contains language requiring coexecutors, then a judge will look to the will to select a person named as a successor executor. If no successor is named, then one will be appointed by the court.

Court-Chosen Executor

When an executor dies and the will does not name a successor, the court must chose someone. Preference is generally given to a family member. If a family member is not willing to accept appointment as the new executor, the judge will choose someone, usually an attorney, to be the replacement.

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About the Author

Dennis Masino practiced and taught law for many years before he began writing professionally in 2009. His articles on law, real estate and business topics can be seen on many websites. He is the author of two published books on drunk driving laws and holds degrees in law and finance.

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